Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 10 March 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 today’s reflection. We are in the third week of Lent and I hope that your Lenten observance is going well. If you have slipped up, start again and pray for the grace to persevere.
In the psalm of today’s Mass (Psalm 147:12-13.15-16.19-20) we hear these words:
He reveals his word to Jacob; to Israel his decrees and judgements. He has not dealt thus with other nations; he has not taught them his judgements.
Let us pray:
May your grace not forsake us, O Lord, we pray, but make us dedicated to your holy service and at all times obtain for us your help. 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.
It is a blessing to have the Word of God revealed to us. It is a privilege to know God’s decrees and judgements. To be given the commandments of God is not a punishment or curtailing our freedom – they are given to guide us on the path to eternal life, to guide us in how we make our decisions and to be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 105). God’s Word is a blessing and not a curse, it instructs us and enriches us. What is pivotal though, is to have the desire and willingness to listen – to listen not only with our ears and head, but importantly with our heart. Our hearts should be a well-prepared seed bed through prayer and a sincere searching for God, so that when the seed is sown it will take root in us, and grow, and bear fruit in abundance (cf. Matthew 13:1-13). A desire (thirsting) for God’s Word, an attitude of listening, an openness to accept his Word even when it is challenging and uncomfortable and the commitment to integrate the word into our lives are fundamental to it taking root and bearing fruit. As the psalmist says, Blessed is the one who does not walk with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night (Psalm 1:1). What a shame that so often the Readings at Mass pass over our heads and we do not take time to ponder on them. The beauty of the Lectionary (the compilation of Biblical Readings for Mass) is not only that it unites as Catholics as we all hear the same message around the world, but that it gives us a comprehensive balance of the Word of God. We do not ‘pick and choose” only those readings that we like or that are comforting to us – we listen also to those that challenge us and that should turf us out of our comfort zone. Allowing this to happen, by being attentive to the proclaimed Word of God, takes us out of the superficiality and mediocrity in our faith, and provides us with a faith that is built on rock (cf. Matthew 7:24-27).
In the Liturgy of the Word, we should not forget the psalms. The psalms hold a very special place in the Scriptures. Traditionally we believe that King David wrote many of the Psalms and some believe that certain psalms were written by Moses and Solomon, among others. The psalms are hymns and, if at all possible, the psalm should be sung during Mass. The psalms hold a special place because they are written by humans, inspired by God, directed to God and were certainly used by Jesus in prayer, both privately and in communal temple/synagogue worship. He quoted from the psalms, most notably on the Cross, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), a quotation from Psalm 22:21. There are other examples. Thus, when we pray the psalms, we are praying to God with words that have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, and using the same prayers that Jesus used.
There are different genres of psalms – individual or communal, psalms of praise, of thanksgiving, of lamentation, the royal psalms, the psalms of wisdom and so on. It can be difficult to pray a psalm of thanksgiving when emotionally we are lamenting about something, or to pray a psalm lamentation when we are filled with joy and thanksgiving. There again, the psalms provide balance to the cycles we go through in life, and they also remind us that while we rejoice there are others in tears and vice versa. In short, the psalms are wonderful and beautiful prayers, songs sung to the Lord, that express our faith and confidence in him, even in the darkest times. Even Psalm 22, which Jesus quoted in torment on the Cross goes on to express confidence in God, For to God, ruler of the nations, belongs kingly power! All who prosper on earth will bow before him, all who go down to the dust will do reverence before him…(verses 28-29). Be aware that in some Bibles the numbering of the psalms will be slightly different, due to a historical difference in translation. Occasionally, in place of the psalm at Mass, a canticle from one of the Books of the Bible will be used, for example the Magnificat.
I will talk a little more on this next week and on the remaining part of the Liturgy of the Word.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Give to your people, O God, a resolve that is pleasing to you, for by conforming them to your teachings you bestow on them every favour. We Make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.