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 11 August 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 reflection. Today is the feast day of St Clare, a contemporary and spiritual friend to St Francis of Assisi. Like St Francis, Clare dedicated her life to serving God in poverty, a powerful witness in her times when some in the Church were more concerned about material benefits. Let us pray the Prayer for Peace for southern Africa, remembering especially the countries of eSwatini and our own country:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

The Scripture Reading comes from the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 18:15-20):

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church;

In South Africa we are quite used to people turning to the courts to settle disputes. Courts also have often been called on to resolve political matters that should really be resolved politically. There are those who turn to courts to solve conflicts with neighbours or strangers who “have crossed swords”. In general, courts prefer matters to be resolved outside of the legal framework if at all possible – of course, if a crime has been committed then matters need to be dealt with according to the law. While complainants may be granted relief by a court, it seldom results in the restoration of relationships and the re-establishment of a relationship that is peaceful and harmonious.

It is difficult to deal with conflicts, especially those in the family or in a close relationships. If we have been wronged by someone, we go through a host of emotions: hurt, anger, the impulse to “hit back” or seek revenge; often there is fear as well, especially fear that in trying to resolve the matter it will result in even greater hurt. Jesus gives sound advice in his teaching which we heard in the Gospel we heard, saying that we should start off in the simplest way possible to resolve matters. First and foremost, talk to the person who has wronged you. If he or she listens and understands, then the relationship is restored, things can get back to normal, harmony and peace have once again been established. If he doesn’t listen, then get one or two with you and, once again, try to talk things through. If he still does not listen, then you should escalate it to the community to help find a way forward.

Don’t start by escalating things – try to resolve them yourself, face to face with the other. As I’ve said, that can be difficult because we often feel vulnerable and would like to have people with us to bolster our case. Secondly, in talking to the one who has wronged you there should always be with the intention of re-establishing a good relationship, of being able to put what has happened in the past. It should not be done to prove that you are right, to justify yourself or to humiliate the other party. In short, it is not about getting on our high horse. Thirdly, in order to confront the other in such a way means having to get our emotions under control, to put aside the hurt, the anger or to hit back. These emotions can be expressed, but not in a way that is intended to hurt the other.

Wherever there are people, differences will arise among them. People rub each other up the wrong way, we fail to understand each other and make judgements about others without really understanding them. It is not pleasant when things go wrong, but it is part of life. The most important thing is not that there are conflicts, but how we handle things afterwards and the steps we take. This calls for much maturity and, indeed, Christian maturity, because forgiveness, which is a mark of Christian living, is required in such situations. If we cannot forgive and “let go” then we will not be able to resume the relationship as it was and will certainly not be able to deepen it.

We can only develop that type of maturity through growing in the image of Jesus Christ, who prayed on the Cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. We grow in the image of Christ through prayer which is ultimately communion with God, uniting ourselves to him, becoming one with him. Prayer enables us to put things in perspective, it calms us and our emotions, it gives us purpose and it gives us courage. When we pray with others the prayer is made all the stronger. As Jesus says later in the Gospel of today’s Mass, for when two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. It is especially important in our families, among the most important people in our lives, that we pray together. Christ is part of our families and we should see him as a member of the family. This can only be achieved when we pray together as a family and keep the love of Jesus before our eyes at all times, inviting him to give us a share of his Divine love.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Almighty God and Father, you call your people to reconcile with you and to establish harmonious relationships among those we live with. We ask your blessings on your people that, through the intercession of St Clare, they may restore their relationship with you, Father, and restore their relationships with others, that all may live in peace and harmony. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

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