Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 10 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 this reflection. As we all know, in the month of November we pray for the faithful departed, for the souls in purgatory. We remember particularly our own loved ones who have died, as well as friends and acquaintances. We should not forget, though, to pray for the forgotten ones, those who have no-one to pray for them. But let us begin by praying 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.
The Reading I have chosen for this reflection is not from the Readings of today’s Mass, but from St Paul’s letter to the Romans 6:3-5:
You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so shall we be by a resurrection like his.
In reflecting on death, we should always be immensely grateful for our baptism. Most of us were infants, or at least very young, when we were baptized and so we have no recollection of it. Baptism is a beautiful celebration filled with symbolism and an insertion into the deep mysteries of our creation and salvation, although regrettably these are often not as appreciated as they should be. Baptism is not simply an opportunity to celebrate the birth of a child – which is important and beautiful; neither is it simply making the new born into a member of the Church – that, too, is important. An essential part of the profoundness of the Sacrament of Baptism lies in the teaching given by St Paul in his letter to the Romans – in Baptism we have been baptized into the death of Christ and have been buried with him, so that we will be raised from the dead with him and share in his resurrection.
For a Christian, there is an intimate link between baptism and death – that is why the Paschal (Easter) Candle is lit when someone receives the Sacrament of Baptism, and it is lit again at the funeral of the person. The Paschal Candle symbolizes the presence of Christ, the Light of the world, who is among us and present to us. The candle of the baptized person is lit from the Paschal Candle and given to the parent or sponsor as a symbol of the light of Christ entering into the life of the newly baptized, and that the newly baptized shares now in the life of Christ. It is by that light we, as Christians, live in the firm faith that through our baptism we have put aside the old life of sin of Adam (even if we had not personally sinned at the time), and we live the new life of Christ within us. We have died to sin and have been raised to life. Clearly we know that we continue to sin, and we also know that we have not yet achieved the fullness of resurrection – these will be accomplished through the mercy and sacrifice of Christ at the time of our being called to God, when we shall see him “face to face” and, once and for all, we will be truly dead to sin and alive in Christ, sharing his resurrection.
Thus, death is the completion of our baptismal journey, the final great event in bringing us to our final destination and ultimate destiny – life in Christ, a sharing in the glorious light of his resurrection. As we continue on this great pilgrimage in the hope that our faith offers us, it is incumbent on us all to guard and protect the light of Christ that is aflame within us. It may be similar to a small, wavering candle but we must keep it alight at all times, ensuring that we use all our resources to prevent the winds of sin, doubt, anxiety and despair from extinguishing that flame.
We take great comfort from the sacrament of baptism, not only as a means of understanding our own deaths but also in accepting the deaths of loved ones. It is always painful to lose someone we love and there are no words that can remove that pain. As much as we believe in Resurrection and eternal life, the rawness of separation leaves us grief-stricken. Faith is the rock which strengthens us in our sadness and the hope we have that we will be re-united with all those who have played an integral part in our lives and whose presence we still feel. In the meantime, we continue to pray for the dead for It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for them, that they may be loosed from sins.1 Not only is our prayer an act of love and mercy for them, it is also an act of faith made by us, as it re-affirms our belief in resurrection and life eternal. It affirms, too, our belief that God is merciful and forgiving, and that our prayers make a difference for those who have left the Church on earth (our present reality), and who are being purified before entering the Church triumphant in glory. Those who are in that third part of the Church of being purified, in other words in purgatory, deserve our prayers for them. It is a noble and generous act to pray for the ones we love but also to remember to pray for those who have been forgotten, that they too may soon share in the glory of God.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Father, look kindly on your people you have called through baptism. Enkindle in them the fire of your love and bring them finally to the glory of your Kingdom. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.
1 cf. 2 Maccabees 12:46