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 12 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.

It is common knowledge that experts believe there will be a third wave of the Corona Virus pandemic in South Africa. So it is timely to remind ourselves, firstly not to become complacent, and secondly of our duty to keep others safe. And so, we must be conscious of the need to wear our masks, to socially distance, sneeze or cough into our elbow (this is important especially as winter approaches) and to wash our hands or sanitize. Every life is valuable, and the longer we can delay the third wave, the more people will be vaccinated and so lives will be saved. Welcome to this reflection. In today’s Gospel from St John (John 16:12-15) we hear these words of Jesus:

I have as yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

Let us pray:

Open our hearts and minds, O Lord, that we may allow ourselves to be guided by your Holy Spirit so that, amidst all the struggles and confusion of this world, we may be led into the light of your truth. 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.

At Mass, after we have prepared through the beautiful prayers of the liturgy and the Scripture Readings we have heard, we open our hearts to receive Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, still in the form of bread and wine but with a changed substance. It is called, as we know, transubstantiation – the substance of bread and wine has been transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. The reception of Communion is a Trinitarian event because, while it is the Body and Blood of Jesus, we know that he is one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit – one God in a unity of three persons. We receive God the Creator into our lives, who from the beginning gave life to the world and gave life to us. Now his life flows through us and envelopes us in a way never known before the Sacrifice of Jesus. It is a supreme moment for us of a closeness and intimacy with God that defies all description. For this reason, after Communion hymns have been sung, there should be a time of complete silence for all of us to quietly pray and praise God in our hearts. We need to savour the moment and to relish it as we experience the serenity and peace of God’s presence.

We received the Holy Spirit particularly through the Sacrament of Confirmation. But when we receive Holy Communion, the Spirit – who is God – makes himself present to us in union with Jesus, and our eyes begin to be opened to the light and the truth that is God. It is a bit like the healing of the blind man of Bethsaida who, after Jesus put spittle on his eyes and laid hands on him, could see people – who looked, to him, like trees. After Jesus laid hands on his eyes again, he could see clearly (Mark 8:24-25). The Spirit reveals truth to us, but we cannot always see clearly immediately. We grow in our understanding and knowledge gradually, and receiving Holy Communion is the nourishment we need and gives us the calmness of soul, which we need in order to stay on the path of slowly having our spiritual eyes opened.

We are not worthy of this great gift, and we have expressed our unworthiness during the course of the liturgy of the Mass. It is Christ’s Sacrifice that allows us to be united with the life of God, and to be given the strength of soul and conscience that we receive through Communion. How important it is for us to show a deep respect and appreciation for this Sacrament of life, love and truth.

After distributing Communion, the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of the Eucharist will purify the sacred vessels that were used in the Mass. These words are quietly said as he carries out the purification: What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity. After the period of silent prayer, the priest will invite the congregation to pray in conclusion of the Communion rite. This is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise of God’s boundless goodness which we have received in the Eucharist. The blessing of Almighty God is then invoked over all present, that all will be protected and remain in unity with God by living a life filled with love and truth. We should relish the blessing as well, for it shows to us God’s favour and protection.

After that comes another important part, which concludes the Mass, and which we must understand. We will be sent out by the deacon or priest with words such as Go in the peace of Christ, or, Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life. We are sent out into the world to witness to Jesus Christ, to evangelize and to gather people into God’s love. The Mass is something we are meant to live in our lives, and we are sent to bring the joy, unity and love that we have experienced through the liturgy to others, to stir their hearts and to inspire them. We are sent to live good lives, to put into practice what we have celebrated in Church, to transform the world, and to serve God and neighbour through our work and daily activities, all of which we will strive to do conscientiously and faithfully. We are sent as heralds of goodness and the Good News, a sending to which we all respond thanks be to God. We should truly give God thanks for entrusting such a mission to us, allowing us to be channels of his grace and love, even though we are but the earthenware vessels that hold such a great treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). It is right, that after receiving our “sending”, we should burst into song, singing the final hymn of thanksgiving and praise to God.

Over the past weeks I have given some reflections on the celebration of Holy Mass and the meaning of Eucharist for our lives. I have done so because this year we are celebrating the Year of the Eucharist. Next week I will make few closing comments on what Mass means for us as Catholics.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Lord, we thank you for the gift of the Sacrament Most Holy and Most Divine and, in our unworthiness, to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. Bless your people, Lord, and keep them faithful so that they may always be channels of your grace, love and truth, amen

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

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