Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 27th May 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thank you once again for joining me for this reflection and welcome to all of you. We are overjoyed and delighted that our President has agreed to the gradual re-opening of Churches. In this reflection, I will start with a verse from the Gospel of today’s Mass, from St John
Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, you consecrate us in your truth. As we continue to live in this world, help us always to have the courage and fortitude to speak the truth without fear. May we counter-act the lies and deception of this world through the power of your Holy Spirit, so that all may come to the joy and happiness that is found only in you. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever, amen.
What is truth, Pilate asked Jesus. Truth can be an elusive reality especially as we receive so many contradictory messages. It can be difficult to know what to believe and who to trust. The truth about life and its meaning, about who we are called to be and how we should live our lives is found in Jesus Christ. There is no lie or deceit in God, there is no intention to trick us or mislead us. Thus, our way to truth is through Jesus Christ and we grow in truth by contemplating his life and teachings, and seeking to follow him with sincere hearts, uniting ourselves to him in that deep relationship for which he prayed – that we may be in him and he in us.
Truth always involves responsibility – we are responsible to seek the truth but also to live the truth. We are responsible for being truthful in all we do. Responsibility is key during the present crisis of Covid 19, especially as the President has agreed to the re-opening of Churches. The purpose behind the lockdown was, firstly, to ensure that the health services would be able to cope with the greater number of people who will need hospitalization and, secondly, to change behaviour. The first has been achieved, at least to a large extent, but it is the second which we need to concentrate on and to ensure that it becomes embedded in our daily lives. I was watching a news broadcast on television recently. An elderly gentleman (in another country) was asked why he was out and about but not wearing a face mask. He simply replied that if he gets infected and it is his time to go, then so be it. What was wrong with this answer? He was only thinking about himself and giving no consideration that he could pass on the infection to others without even realizing it. There are others who say that if you go to Church, then Jesus will protect you. I do not doubt that Jesus protects us, but such an answer is simply bad theology, a false understanding of God. Who would walk across the N1 freeway at rush hour, blindfolded, and say “Jesus will protect me”. Jesus expects us to use our intellect and not to put the Lord our God to the test (Dt 6:16; Luke 4:12).
Churches have been places of spreading the Covid 19 infection. In countries where Churches have been allowed to re-open, some have had to close again because they have become places of infection. We want our Churches to re-open. We asked our President to allow that and he has agreed. He was sympathetic to our request and has given the answer we hoped for. It will be a phased-in re-opening and we have to be responsible. We have to take precautions to protect others through social-distancing, hygiene, wearing masks, limiting movement, and so on. It may be a nuisance at times, for example, to wear a mask. But we don’t do it for our own comfort we do it to protect others. Ultimately, it is a choice between selfishness and taking responsibility. Let us all be responsible in all circumstances and work together to limit the spread of this disease and to save lives. As we return to public worship let us be scrupulous in respecting the protocols that we will have to follow and to change our behaviour. It is the true and responsible thing to do.
Just before closing I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those who have opened their hearts to those who face economic hardship and starvation by contributing to the Archdiocesan Covid 19 food parcel campaign. This campaign must continue as many people, are in desperate need. By the end of this week we will have distributed 8,025 food parcels and 563 food vouchers (the vouchers are for people who live in areas outside of Cape Town). We have spent more than R1,371,000 – R801,000 was contributed by parishioners and even people from outside the Archdiocese. R571,000 has come from the Archdiocese itself. People continue to battle against poverty and hunger and so we must continue to give relief to them – it is the Christian and the right thing to do. If you are able, please do contribute. We appreciate every gift and we are grateful to you. If you have the means, please be as generous as you possibly can – the need is really great and we are all aware that the numbers of malnourished children are increasing. In the First Reading of today’s Mass we hear the words of St Paul: “I have never asked anyone for money or clothes…. I did this to show you that this is how we must exert ourselves to support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, who himself said, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.”’ (Acts 20:33-35). I am not asking for money for myself, for the Archdiocese, or for the Church – I am asking for contributions on behalf of those who go to bed wracked with the pangs of hunger. If you are able to help please do so. The banking details are on the Archdiocesan website. Let us now pray for God’s blessing;
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Merciful and compassionate Father, we thank you for the many gifts you have bestowed on us, most especially the gifts given by the Holy Spirit. May we be filled with the Truth that your Spirit gives, so that we may be responsible in all our behaviour and protect the lives of others, even if it means discomfort for ourselves. Set our hearts ablaze Lord, that we may be conduits of the light and life that the Spirit gives, and may always be faithful in living our Christianity to the full. We ask this through Christ our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit R/Amen
I wish you all a blessed feast of Pentecost – may the Holy Spirit guide us in all we do.