Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 3 November 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 hope that all those who were eligible to vote in the local elections were able to do so. As we begin the month of November, we remember the faithful departed and pray for them that the Lord, in his mercy, will grant them eternal life. We begin this reflection with the Adsumus prayer, praying for the Synod of 2023:
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.
The Scripture reading is from the Gospel of today’s Mass (Luke 14:25-33):
“And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it?”
There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is not simply calling ourselves Christians that makes us Christians. If we are really intent on following Jesus, there are consequences to that decision. We have to think carefully and question whether we have the resources to persevere in the path to which we have been called and chosen – just as a person who has decided to build a tower needs to think about whether he will be able to complete building it, and to assess what will be needed to accomplish the task. If not, he will land up with a half-built tower and will have wasted everything, including his self-esteem.
In our own reckoning of our ability to follow the Lord, we have to look at both our inner resources and outer resources. In the inward journey – and St Augustine has taught us, based on his own experience, that we find God within ourselves – we have first and foremost to look at our faith. Faith is a gift given by God, but it is also a gift that must be nurtured. Ultimately, true faith comes through an encounter with God, an awareness of his presence within us and in the world. It is about trust in God’s providence and care for us. We could perhaps sum it up with the question, is God real for me. We know that God is both transcendent (that is, God is above and beyond the normal and physical level), and he is also immanent (that is, indwelling and manifested in the material world). It is only when we have experienced, in a personal way, the mystery of God both as far beyond us and yet closely with us, that we are drawn in a hungry fascination and wonder to grow closer and closer to him. In allowing ourselves to be drawn by God, expressed by the Prophet Jeremiah in these words: you seduced me and I let myself be seduced by you (Jer 20:7), we have to question whether we have the ability to persevere and be faithful. The way to God is the road to peace, contentment and growth, but it is also a road that demands the endurance of suffering. As Jesus warns in the Gospel passage of today’s Mass,anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. In short, it involves a total self-giving, of offering oneself to God. Thus Jesus also says, none of you can be my disciple unless he give up all his possessions. Ultimately, it is not a matter of only giving up material possessions but of given up one’s self and will so that his will may be done.
We have also to consider our ability to love. We cannot love God while ignoring our neighbour – as St John says, If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1Jn 4:20). It is through our neighbour that we love God, for our neighbour is created in the image of God and, in some way, God dwells in his/her heart. Relationships can be fraught with friction, personality differences, hurt and sin. Part of carrying our cross must also be to carry each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2) and short-comings. It is through our neighbour that we learn to forgive, to tolerate, to accept and to reconcile. It is our neighbour who “mellows” us and helps us change into better people and better Christians. Difficult people can make us better people and more Christ-like. In all of our relationships, we are conscious of the great ideal of Christ’s teaching – to forgive. God is not only just but also merciful, and we must be the same. Peace is the fruit of love, because love goes beyond what justice can provide.1 Our aim must always be to reconcile and to restore relationships, and so we have to let go of a lot of “possessions” – the possessions of pride, hurt, self-righteousness, self-aggrievement and the desire to get satisfaction for wrongs we have endured.
In assessing the outer resources necessary to be disciples, we look particularly at our relationship with the Church founded by Christ who gathered together those who wished to follow him. We consider and assess our participation and unity with the Christian community. It is in that oneness of belonging to the believing community, in coming together as community in prayer and worship, in receiving the Sacraments and the grace mediated through the Church, and playing our part through participation in building up the Christian community, that we receive the strength and courage from the very fountain of life and grace, Jesus Christ. We cannot meet the “cost of discipleship” unless we have the support that flows from belonging to the Body of Christ, the Christian family. But this is not a “one-way street”. We too must play our part in learning more and more to love the Church and to give ourselves in service to God through the Church.
Let us now close with a prayer:
Loving Father, we commend to you all the souls of the faithful departed, especially our loved ones and the forgotten ones. Be merciful to them Lord, and allow them a share in your glory. Through Christ, our Lord, amen.
The Lord be with you: And with your spirit.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
1Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the Modern World N78