Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 3 June 2020, 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.
Thank you for being with me for this brief reflection. I’ll start, as usual, with a Scripture reading. It is taken from the First Reading of today’s Mass, from 2 Timothy chapter 1:
I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Let us Pray:
Merciful Father, you guide and instruct us by your Word. We are not called to timidity or fearfulness, but to a spirit of power, love and self-control. Through the intercession of St Charles Lwanga and his companions, strengthen us to overcome our reticence and fears, that we may worthily and with love witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and share the hope of life eternal to all those we meet. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. R/Amen
Today is the memorial of the Ugandan martyrs, St Charles Lwanga and his companions. They were put to death because they refused the immoral coercion by the king to participate in sexual behaviour. As with all the martyrs, they stood their ground, remained steadfast in their faith and unshakeable in their loyalty to Jesus Christ. Their behaviour and witness were exemplary, not only for the people of their time but for all the future generations up to today. These brave young people responded in faith and trust to the circumstances of their time, without complaint, without feeling sorry for themselves and without losing hope.
We will probably never be called to martyrdom, but should our own behaviour not be a witness to Christ, and exemplary, so that others may be inspired and strengthened? Should we not, also, be brave in the circumstances we find ourselves today and live our lives without complaint, without feeling sorry for ourselves and without losing hope in God’s presence and goodness.
As with the Ugandan martyrs, we too need to witness to what is right and good, whether in terms of sexual morality, justice, promotion of life, the dignity of each person, and so on. In this time of the Covid-19 virus we are meant not to think of ourselves but to think of the health and well-being of others. In many ways this was what I was speaking of last week. I said that ultimately it comes down to a choice between selfishness and taking responsibility. As we face the present challenge, I cannot stress enough the importance of behaviour change and observance of the measures put in place for the protection of others. We could say that we have the health of others in our hands – we can protect them or we can put them at risk. To be honest, I am still amazed at how lightly many people take the safety regulations. Safe distancing is hardly observed (even though there are marking as to where people can stand), often people wear masks but they are dangling around their necks, or only covering their mouths. We, as followers of Jesus Christ, must lead in giving a good example to people. We are meant to be “light to the world” and the “salt of the earth”. Protection of life is fundamental
We are beginning the process of gradually re-opening our Churches on a restricted level. It is an “alleluia” moment and very good news, but it would be irresponsible to attempt this without profound behaviour change. The Western Cape is the epicentre of the pandemic in South Africa. There is no doubt that the infection rate will rise during the alert level 3 lockdown period. On Friday I will address the matter that the Church in the Archdiocese cannot re-open for public worship immediately, and I will explain the process for gradually working towards public worship on a restricted scale. The guiding principle we have to keep in mind is the protection of the health of others. This means that we have to change ourselves to live what is being termed the “new normal”. As Christians we have to be an example to all, so that others can model our behaviour and learn what the right thing to do is.
We have already sacrificed much. We will have to continue making sacrifice. The martyrs of Uganda – these young men – inspire us to do so with a willing heart, prepared to suffer for what is right. We are the Eucharistic people, not simply because we receive communion, but because we are willing to allow ourselves to be broken, to sacrifice and to give, for the sake of Christ and the sake of our neighbour. Let us turn to the future with confidence, courage and perseverance.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your spirit
Heavenly Father, Lord of all compassion, look kindly on us, your family. Strengthen us as you strengthened the martyrs of Uganda, Charles Lwanga and his companions, that we may not lose hope and but that we may persevere in our faith and commitment to you. Comfort us in our separation from the Holy Sacrament of Eucharist, console us in our loneliness and fill our hearts with the joy which comes from you alone. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord /Amen
May Almighty bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.
May God bless you and keep you in his love always.