Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 5 May 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. We continue in Easter time, waiting expectantly for the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. We remain conscious of the Resurrection of Christ and the new life that we already live through him. To him be all glory, honour and power! For the Reading I have taken the entire Gospel of today’s Mass; it is from St John’s Gospel (John 15:9-11).
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full”.
Let us pray:
O God, by whose grace we have been made just, although we are pitiable, we have been made blessed. We ask that you will stand by your your works and by your gifts, that those who have been justified by your gifts may not lack the courage of perseverance. 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 prayer is based on the Collect of today’s Mass. It is always imperative to pray for the courage of perseverance, because we face many struggles that can discourage us and cause us to give up. There are also many things that attract us but which can lead us away from our faith. The Evil One is always active in the world and we need to be vigilant not to be deceived by him and never to give up our hope, which lies in Jesus Christ alone.
In the Reading from St John, Jesus urges us to “abide in his love”. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is a visible and material manifestation of his love for us. We need the Eucharist, for it strengthens us and gives us the courage to continue on the journey of faith. Before receiving Communion, the priest raises the consecrated Host and Chalice and invites us to, Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. These are words spoken by St John the Baptist when he saw Jesus approaching (John 1:29) – he pointed people to Jesus who is the source of God’s forgivenss, and who comes to us as the innocent Lamb of God. The people at Mass respond, also by using words from the Gospel: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof; but only say the word and my soul shall be healed. These beautiful words are based on the words of the centurion at Capernaum who sought the healing of his servant (Matthew 8:8). They are words of deep faith and confidence in Jesus. Before receiving Holy Communion, we too say these words expressing our faith in the healing power of Jesus who comes to us in the Eucharist, even though we are unworthy. Some may find the concept of “enter under my roof” rather strange because it is buildings that have roofs, not people. But as I have said many times, the whole of the Eucharistic celebration is Biblically based and it is appropriate to emulate the faith expressed by the gentile centurion. It is not meant to be convey a physical roof. These words call to mind Jesus’ words in the Book of Revelation (3:20): Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. In responding to the priest’s invitation, Behold the Lamb of God, we respond by inviting the Lord who “knocks at the door” to enter in, that we may enjoy the fellowship with him that is captured in the phrase, I will come in and eat with that person.
This brief excgange between the priest and people is a beautiful and deep expression of appreciation for the Eucharist. There is the call to “behold” – to look to Jesus and to always have him before our eyes. “Who takes away the sins of the world”, an acknowledgement of Christ’s mission and his sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins and for the salvation of people. The humble expression of unworthiness on the part of those who will receive Communion indicates their gratitude to Jesus whose blood was shed to wash away our sins, and gratitude to the greatness of God who blesses us with a great gift of new and everlasting life that is to be found in the Eucahrist – Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”(John 6:53). We receive life by receiving the Eucharist. And again, in beholding Jesus, it is to Him that we turn for the healing we long for, the everlasting healing of mind, body and soul – the wholeness of the life promised to us. In his words, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10). It should be noted that the priest responds with the people, “Lord I am not worthy….”
All who approach to receive Communion are encouraged to make a sign of reverence before receiving Communion – this can be a bow, genuflecting or making the sign of the Cross. Whatever sign you make should not be an obstacle to those coming after you in the Communion line, nor should it be exaggerated. Some prefer to receive Communion on the tongue, others on the hand. Of course, in these Covid times we are not able to receive on the tongue due to the possible danger of transmitting infection to others. However, I would appeal to those who prefer to receive on the tongue not to deprive themselves of Holy Communion at this time, but to accept receiving on the hand until such time as things change. Jesus has commanded us to “do this in memory of me”, and he has blessed us with his Body and Blood to give us life. Let us not cut ourselves off from that life.
In some countries, such as South Africa, it is common (in non-Covid times) to receive Communion “under both kinds” – however, this is far from universal. The Church’s teaching is that receiving Communion under any one kind is to receive both the Body and Blood of Jesus. Thus, receiving only the Consecrated Host is perfectly acceptable and it constitutes both the Body and the Blood. A few, perhaps who are gluten intolerant, may receive only from the Chalice, and they too receive both the Body and Blood of Jesus.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Hasten to the aid of your faithful people who call on you, O Lord, we pray, and graciously give strength in their human weakness, so that, being dedicated to you in complete sincerity, they may find gladness in your remedies both now and in the life to come, amen
May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.