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 9 June 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. I trust that you were able to celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Christi prayerfully and with gratitude, even if you were not able to attend Mass physically due to the restrictions. We continue to thank God for the Eucharist, which makes present to us Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. For today’s reflection I have taken an excerpt from the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 5:17-19):

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”

Let us pray:

Father, source of all love, fill our hearts with the same love, that we may love and honour you with all our heart, soul and mind, and that we may love our neighbour with the selfsame love that your Son Jesus has for us. 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.

Jesus did not come to abolish the laws given by God to Moses in the Old Testament. He came to fulfil them and not to change them. Indeed, he emphasises that the one who does these laws (that is, keeps them) and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of God. Crucially, he also emphasises that he has not come to abolish the Prophets. He not only fulfils the law, but also the prophecies of a new covenant, a new heaven and new earth, and the realm of the Kingdom of God – a kingdom that transcends all earthly kingdoms.

Hearing Jesus’s words to his disciples at the Last Supper may seem to contradict what he said to his disciples on this occasion. At the Last Supper, after washing his disciples’ feet, he said to them, I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you (John 13;34). The commandment to love God and to love one another was not a new commandment! It’s roots are in the Old Testament (e.g.Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Leviticus 19:18). Thus, when a scribe approached Jesus and asked him “What is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus replied that it is to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind – that is the first commandment, and the second is like it, to love your neighbour as yourself. The scribe recognized the truth of Jesus’ reply and said to him “well spoken, Master” (Mark 12:28-34). In the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus teaches us who our neighbour is.

In the light of this, how could Jesus say at the Last Supper that he was giving “a new commandment”? The crucial words of Jesus are that we are to love “as I have loved you”. We are to love with the same love Jesus has for us. It is appropriate that it was at the Last Supper that he spoke these words because the events that unfolded from that time show exactly how Jesus loves us. He loves us to such an extent that he abandons his own life and gives himself over to be tortured, humiliated, mocked, crucified and allowed his blood to drain from his Body in giving his life for our salvation. When he says that he is giving us a “new commandment” to “love one another, as I have loved you”, that is the love that he is calling us to have. Abandonment to self and the willingness to empty ourselves in fidelity to God and for the wellbeing and good of others. This type of love, while it makes us whole, blesses us with inner peace and unites us in love with God, is nonetheless a painful journey which we must not romanticize or else we shall never be able to endure it. It is choosing the “narrow gate” rather than to walk the broad and easy path. We have to ask ourselves, are we able to love as Jesus loves us? By ourselves it is impossible. With God we are given the strength and grace to learn to love as Jesus loves us. Our Lady, the saints and martyrs and many good men and women throughout history have shown us that it is possible – but only when we allow God’s grace into our hearts. Thank God for the Eucharist which allows his life to flow in our lives, for it is only through his life working within ours that we are able to embark on this arduous but joyful journey.

Jesus did not abolish the law and prophets. Throughout the Old Testament, love of God and love of neighbour are woven together. To keep the ten commandments means that we will show love to God and neighbour. What Jesus has done, is to call us to go beyond simply not doing that which harms our relationship with God and with others ,and learning to integrate the virtues of Jesus’ love into our lives. These are the virtues he showed throughout his life but which are starkly revealed to us in his passion and death – self-sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, compassion, justice, peace and unity. To keep the Law and the Prophets is part of Christian life, but it must be accompanied by our willingness to grow in virtue and goodness, picking ourselves up after our many failures, and learning daily to love more and more as Jesus loves us.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Lift the burdens on the shoulders of your people, Lord, and lighten their yoke, that they may always rejoice in your love and cherish the peace that you alone can give. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

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