Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 13 October 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. In this month of Our Lady, we pray especially for peace in our country and region. We are all too aware of the political violence, criminal violence, family violence and the violence against the most vulnerable. Let us never tire of praying for peace while, at the same time, striving to be peacemakers. And so we pray the prayer for peace in Southern Africa:
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.
One of the themes of today’s First Reading (Romans 2:1-11), as with the Gospel (Luke 11: 42-46), is a warning against hypocrisy. St Paul asks whether the person passing judgement on others for the very things that he himself is guilty of, thinks that he will escape the Judgement of God. St Paul says:
Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet you do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
There is often the temptation to take the “moral highground” which is a position of supposed superiority and judgement of others. We can see clearly the faults of others and hold them responsible for their mistakes and sins. It is much more difficult, firstly, to recognize our own faults, and secondly, to take responsibility for them. It is much easier for us to find excuses for our own sins and to downplay them, than it is for us to do so for others. In short, it is easier for us to see the splinter in our brother’s eye and never notice the log in our own eye (cf. Luke 6:41).
We can also be in a “comfort zone” of misunderstanding God’s compassion, mercy and forgiveness. It is true that in the past, at least in certain circumstances, there were those in the Church who preached “fire and brimstone”, and the proclamation of the forgiveness and love of God could be neglected. At the same time, there can be the temptation to proclaim God as an all-forgiving God who is abundantly rich in mercy and compassion in a way that presents a cheap and wimpish mercy, an “automatic” forgiveness. It is absolutely true that God is all forgiving and rich in mercy but we should never forget that the price of that forgiveness – the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross. Repentance is offered to all people through the Cross. Repentance is the necessary requirement for forgiveness – his kindness and mercy demand conversion, a change of heart, turning to God and away from sin and embracing a new life, as Bishop Sylvester spoke of in his reflection last Friday.
The fact is, we cannot be ambivalent about sin, about what is right and wrong, even though we often face “grey areas” where we are not sure what the right thing to do is, we always try to do what is right in terms of our Christian values.. Jesus showed no ambivalence in the face of sin and was not afraid of denouncing sinfulness – a good example is the Gospel of today’s Mass where Jesus denounces the sinful hypocrisy of the Pharisees – Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it. When Jesus teaches us, Do not judge, and you will not be judged, he is not saying that we should turn a blind eye to sinfulness and to evil in the world or that we should be indifferent when evil people cause immense suffering to others by using them as commodities. God is not insensitive and uncaring to those who suffer and who live in fear of their tormentors; he is not insensitive to those who are discriminated against and who suffer injustice. We cannot be indifferent, either, to sin in the world. Our mission is to be a beacon and light in the darkness, leading people to the hope we have in God’s love through repentance.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged”, says Jesus (Matthew 7:1). We must recognise that “evil” and “sin” are not only things “out there”. They exist also within us and. Just as we can contribute to the growth of God’s Kingdom of love through small everyday deeds done with kindness, we can also contribute to suffering through small, everyday deeds, when we disregard the needs or feelings of others. In our own “bubble” we can cause suffering and pain to others. “Judge not lest you be judged” means that we need to examine ourselves honestly and to be conscious of the times when we sin against God and neighbour and, above all, to understand and accept how much we are in need of God’s mercy and grace for our own salvation. We cannot come to that awareness without deep, regular prayer and contemplation. It is when we are in communion with God that his light reveals to us how we too fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and how much we are in need of being saved.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Loving Father, we thank you for the high price paid for our forgiveness and redemption. Work through your holy people that they may be beacons of light and truth and so lead others to you, the eternal Truth. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.