Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 10 February 2021, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Welcome to this week’s reflection. On Sunday we celebrated the patronal feast of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt. It is always a beautiful feast day that encourages and inspires us. Please keep the Archdiocese in your prayers and seek the intercession of Mary our Mother, that the Church in Cape Town may reflect the image of Christ in the love and service we offer to society.

In the first reading of today’s Mass, from the Book of Genesis (2:4b-9.15-17) we hear of the creation of the world and humankind. This is what we hear:

…a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground – then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 

Let us pray:

Through the intercession of our patron saints, we pray O Lord, that you will keep your family safe with unfailing care, that relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace, they may be defended always by your protection. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever, amen. 

The First Reading of the past couple of days have narrated the account of creation, emphasising that God is the source of all life and that all things came into being through Him. Exactly how God chose this to be is somewhat irrelevant – we cannot know or understand the ways of God. The essential fact is that life comes from God, he is the Creator of heaven and earth and all they contain. Those who struggle with faith and find it difficult to come to belief in God, cannot explain how the world came to exist – “it just was”, and various events of the inanimate objects of the heavens brought the earth and life into being, some would postulate. It doesn’t hold water. Human experience and knowledge have taught us that there needs to be a cause, a “first mover”. It is most logical to believe in the Creator who has given life. Again, exactly how God did this or the length of time it has taken us to reach this point is not the most important thing. Primarily, what we need to focus on is our belief in God, the Source of Life. 

It is this key belief that all life comes from God that is the basis for our belief in the sanctity of all life, human life in particular because “Man”, male and female, is made in the image of God. This time of intense global crisis and suffering brings home to us how important life is. As Pope Francis has recently said, the pandemic forced us to confront two unavoidable dimensions of human existence: sickness and death. In doing so, it reminded us of the value of life, of every individual human life and its dignity, at every moment of its earthy pilgrimage, from conception in the womb, until its natural end. He went on to say that human life must be protected at every phase. Pro-life means being concerned and respectful of life at every phase, as the saying goes “from womb to tomb”.

To respect the sanctity of life means protecting the unborn and protecting the lives of the elderly. Our belief in God as the source of life means that we cannot accept abortion or euthanasia. But it also means that we have to struggle against everything that oppresses people, against injustices which keep people living in poverty and without access to opportunity, health or education; it is taking a stand against violence and abuse, taking a stand on issues such as the treatment of migrants and refugees, human trafficking and the exploitation of people who are used and discarded by others for their own purpose. In short, it is about a moral imperative of respecting and protecting all life, even if it means a cost to ourselves we must be willing to make that sacrifice.

We also reflect on our own lives and question ourselves on how we respect the dignity of others. It is not only the “macro” issues that we have to worry about but also our personal relationships and interactions with others, which can become manipulative, controlling or exploitative. Filled with Christ’s Spirit we aim to bring life to people through encouragement, kindness and forgiveness. There is so much of fallen humanity that does the opposite – feelings and actions of revenge, gossiping about others thereby putting them in a bad light and destroying their reputation, putting people down, false witness and negativity or pessimism which brings darkness and sadness to others rather than light and joy – all of these belong to death and not life.

When Moses spoke to the Israelites he encouraged them by saying, This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him (Deuteronomy 30:29-30). This is what we wish to do, to always choose life. The Gospel by which we live is the Gospel of Life – Christ always brought life to people. There was never any darkness in him but only light. He is our life and he came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). It is only in him that we can have life in abundance. But we cannot truly have that life while the lives of others around us are diminished.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit

Loving Father, look kindly on your people that they may always serve you with pure love and be granted the grace to accept with open hearts all that comes from loving you. May your life-giving Spirit always be with them. Through Christ our Lord, amen. And may Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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