Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 14 April 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.
On Sunday we celebrated the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Once again, we are reminded of the love God has for us and his desire that we should have life and have it to the full. Welcome to this reflection. The excerpt is from the Gospel of today’s Mass, John 3:16-21.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, every year we recall the restoration of human nature to its original dignity through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we, too, receive the hope of rising again that we may show in love the mysteries we celebrate. 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 Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life. In the Eucharist we fulfill Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me”, and in receiving Communion we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of liberation, for Jesus’ death has liberated us from sin and from eternal death. We recall his words, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53). For this reason, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, God is given glory and praise as the priest says “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever”. The people respond with what, as I have said before, can be considered the most important response of the Mass; “Amen” – it is so, it is true, it is certain. This is an acclamation of faith, an acclamation of belief that the bread and wine have been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is an acceptance that all that has been said and done is true, and it is an assent to the doxology, the final prayer of praise that brings the Eucharistic prayer to an end. The “amen” should come from deep within the hearts of all who are present and it should be a conscious renewal of belief in Eucharist. This ratification of the Prayer of Thanksgiving was essential, as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians when he writes, What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? Ideally, the “Amen” should be sung, for singing is another way of lifting our hearts to God. At the very least, it should be pronounced clearly and audibly by all.
Once the Eucharistic Prayer has been brought to completion, the priest invites the community to pray the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”. The “Our Father” was not always part of the Mass and was probably inserted in the 4th Century. Saints, such as Ambrose and Augustine, saw the Lord’s Prayer as an ideal way to prepare for receiving Holy Communion. It is a prayer deeply special to Christians as we were taught to pray it by Christ himself. It gives praise to the supremacy of the transcendence and dignity of God “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”. It affirms our belief in God’s Kingdom and its values, as well as our commitment and desire to be obedient to God, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We pray for our daily bread, both the material bread and food we need for our bodies, but also the “bread of heaven”, his Body and Blood, by which we are nourished spiritually. We pray again for forgiveness, as we did during the introductory parts of Mass, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. We pray, lead us not into temptation, that the Lord will protect us from temptations, since we are weak and often fail; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). It can be questioned whether God would ever lead us into temptation. In the Gospel (e.g. Matthew 4:1) we hear that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Essentially, we pray to God not to allow us to be tempted, and not to allow us to be tempted beyond our strength to resist (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). And we acknowledge our need for salvation and protection from God as we pray, “Deliver us from evil”. We are in need of God’s power to protect us from the evil one.
The Lord’s Prayer, when prayed carefully and reflectively, is an ideal preparation for Holy Communion. It affirms God’s salvation and his Kingdom which is already among us. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord’s Prayer has an added doxology, for the kingdom, the power and the glory is yours, now and for ever”, but this doxology is absent in St Luke’s Gospel. The early Church Fathers also did not use this doxology, and so traditionally Catholics don’t use it when praying the Lord’s Prayer. In the Mass, the doxology has been inserted as words of praise to God, but are not placed at the end of the Lord’s prayer, but rather at the end of the following the prayer (“the embolism”) when the priest prays “deliver us, O Lord, from every evil…”
Because we become so accustomed to the liturgical ritual, we tend to “rattle” off a number of the beautiful prayers that make up the Mass. Part of deepening our appreciation of Eucharist, and part of preparing ourselves better to receive Communion, we should ensure that when we pray the “Our Father” that the words come from our hearts. It is important to prepare properly and conscientiously to receive Holy Communion. After all, Communion means uniting ourselves with the very life of God, so that we have a share in his life. It is part of our path to holiness, and we receive Holy Communion with confidence, knowing that God desires that we should not perish, but we should have eternal life – as we heard in the excerpt from the Gospel of today’s Mass.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Show your presence to your people, Lord, and bestow on the them the grace of Resurrection, that they may always rejoice in the hope they have received and be protected from the darkness of despair. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.