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 17 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.

Today we celebrate the Feast of St Patrick, co-patron of the Archdiocese of Cape Town. I wish you all God’s blessings as we celebrate this great saint, of whom we know very little. What we do know is that he changed the world through his missionary work in Ireland which, over the centuries, has sent thousands and thousands of missionaries throughout the world. Today we pray not only for our Archdiocese, but also for all missionaries and the country of Ireland. I’ve taken the Scripture verse from today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 96): 

Proclaim his salvation day by day. Tell among the nations his glory, and his wonders among all the peoples. Give the Lord, you families of peoples, give the Lord glory and power; give the Lord the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in holy splendour…” 

We will take the prayer from the collect of today’s Mass. Let us pray:

O God, who chose the Bishop St Patrick to preach your glory to the peoples of Ireland, grant through his merits and intercession, that those who glory in the name of Christian may never cease to proclaim your wondrous deeds to all. 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.

St Patrick proclaimed the glory and wonders of God to the people of Ireland. He found in them receptive hearts who received the word and who gave the Lord glory and power. The fruits of the work of St Patrick and the response of the people have produced fruits beyond measure throughout the world. How blessed are we to be recipients of the proclamation of the Word every time we attend Holy Mass. With open hearts, may we allow that Word to work through us and bear abundant spiritual riches.

Last week, in speaking of the Liturgy of the Word, I spoke about the beauty of the psalms. On a solemnity (such as Sunday) the psalm is followed by a Second Reading and, after that, we are invited to welcome the Gospel through the “Alleluia” (or, in Lent, “Glory and praise to you O Christ”) and a short Scriptural verse. The deacon requests the blessing from the celebrating priest, who says softly to him, May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If there is no deacon present the Gospel will be proclaimed by a priest, who says quietly in his heart,  Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel. The people are greeted with the words “The Lord be with you”, expressing the desire that God’s spirit be given to the people of God to enable them to do the work of transforming the world, to which they respond with the ancient response dating back at least to the 3rdcentury, “and with your Spirit”. We are then informed as to the Evangelist who authored the particular Gospel, to which we respond “Glory to you, Lord”, while tracing the sign of the Cross on our foreheads, lips and heart – a sign that indicates our desire to understand with our minds, to confess with our lips, and to receive into our hearts. Signing with the Cross is always a reminder that redemption has come into the world through the Cross. It also reminds us of the seal that has been placed on us through Baptism and Confirmation. The Gospel is then proclaimed to those gathered.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the prayerfulness of the Liturgy of the Word. After we listen to the Readings with open ears and hearts, we express our gratitude to God by saying “Thanks be to God” or, in the case of the Gospel, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”. God is the focus and we direct our thoughts and prayers to him.

The deacon or priest will then deliver the homily or, on a weekday, he will give a brief reflection. The purpose is to elaborate on one or two aspects of the Scripture Readings, or on the particular feast day, and how we can practically apply what we have heard to our daily lives and activities. It is meant to encourage us, to strengthen our faith, so that we will persevere in hope and act in charity to our neighbour.

On a solemnity, after the homily, we are invited to profess our faith. This is a slight anomaly because, as I have said, the Mass is prayer directed to God, but the Profession of Faith is an inserted statement of what we believe, rather than prayer. The Creed is meant to re-affirm us in our faith, as well as express our unity in faith. We say “I believe…” rather than “we believe…” because it must be a personal acknowledgement of my belief. Usually we use the Nicene Creed, dating back to the Council of Nicea in the year 325, which was composed to clarify our Christian faith through clear formulae and to avoid the heresies and falsehoods that had arisen. In Lent or the Easter Season we can use the “Apostles Creed” which is the fundamental basics of our belief. On certain occasions we renew our baptismal promises in place of the Creed.

On a Sunday the general intercessions will then follow. There is a particular order that should be followed for the Prayers of the Faithful, namely, a) for the needs of the Church; b) for public authorities and the salvation of the whole world; c) for those burdened by any kind of difficulty;
d) for the local community. Part of our Christian vocation is to pray for the world and to pray for others – we do so personally, and together, as we bring our faith-filled prayers before God.

The Prayers of the Faithful bring to a conclusion the Liturgy of the Word. Now, having begun Mass in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, having been welcomed by the celebrant with words of grace and love, having expressed repentance for our sinfulness and, having been nourished and strengthened by listening to the Word of God, we are now ready to enter into the second part of Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We will now encounter the living Christ in a much deeper, profound and personal way, through the memorial of his passion, death and resurrection – we will also receive his Body and Blood in Communion.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

O God, protector of all who hope in you, bless your people, keep them safe, defend them, prepare them, that, free from sin and safe from the enemy, they may persevere always in your love. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.

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