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 10 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. 

As we feel the cold weather coming in, let us remember especially those who do not have sufficient shelter or food. The lockdown has made us much more aware of the inequity of our society and the deep economic gulf that exists in our country. Compassion and care for others is an important lesson for us to learn from the Covid-19 crisis. Thank you for joining me for this reflection.

In the Gospel of today’s Mass we hear the words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not one iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until it is accomplished.”  (Matt 5:17ff).

Let us Pray:

Heavenly Father, you sent your Son into the world in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament and of the law given to Moses, and he led us to the knowledge that the prophecies and law do not pass away until they are accomplished. He has called us to appreciate and to live their deeper meaning, he  has called us to a life of grace through loving you with all our being, and loving our neighbour as we do ourselves. Open our hearts, Lord, so that they may be filled with this grace and that we may always express our love of you through service to our brothers and sisters. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever, amen.

Pope Francis has frequently spoken of the loneliness and anonymity of modern times. Especially those who live in large cities often experience an intense loneliness and sense of isolation, even though they live among thousands or even millions of people. Isn’t ironic that in the present crisis we are isolated and limited in our social interaction and yet in many ways feel much closer to people, even though we cannot physically be with them. Through the difficulty and struggle of this period many of us have re-discovered values that we may have neglected, and one of those values is our Christian response to those who suffer. This captures the essence of Jesus saying that he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it.

The commandments of God stand – they are for all time and Jesus was very clear in saying that he was not changing one iota, one dot, of the law. But while they remain and are true, they are not sufficient in themselves, more is needed, and that is why we have been called to a life of love. Jesus, in response to a question by one of the scribes, responded Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (cf. Mk 12:30ff).

Sometimes we would call this the “spirit of the law” as opposed to the “letter of the law”. While we are most certainly expected to keep the commandments we are meant to go far far beyond that. This present time is indicative of that, when we are reminded in a very dramatic way that we are meant to think of the good of our neighbour and to turn away from selfishness and to turn away from slipping into the comfort of doing was is simply pleasing to ourselves. It is a challenge to counter-act the anonymity of “life in the city” and to be able to reach out to, and give support to, those who feel lonely, isolated and unsupported. It is a challenge to us not to regard the Eucharist as purely a ritual celebration with a value in itself, but that it is a lived expression of Jesus’ compassion and love to all people. We are presently cut off from receiving Communion, but we are not cut off from Eucharist itself because it is something we should be practising every moment of our day. After all, at the Last Supper, when Jesus gave us the Sacraments of priesthood and Eucharist, he said – after taking, thanking, breaking and giving the Bread, and giving the Chalice – “do this is memory of me”. It was a command he gave us to which we are faithful to the present day, through all the ages, when the Eucharist is celebrated. But we should not neglect the other instruction he gave us at the Last Supper. He said, just as I have washed your feet you too must wash each other’s feet (cf.Jn 13:14). In giving us this instruction he intimately connected Eucharist to giving humble service to others, to our neighbour. Just as the commandment to love our neighbour cannot be separated from the commandment to love God, so too the instruction to “wash each others’ feet cannot be separated from the Eucharist. Jesus has inseparably linked Eucharist to charity, that is, to a lived love and compassion towards others. In other words, we could say that receiving Communion is not only for my consolation and strengthening, it is about changing my heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, so that I may bring the loving, compassionate care of Jesus to others.

Let’s now pray for God’s blessing.

The Lord be with you                                                   R/ And with your spirit

Heavenly Father, we ask you to bestow your blessing upon us, our families, our parishes and our society, that we may be enthused by your Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ through our words and actions. May we be faithful to the Eucharist by learning to be compassionate, non-judgemental and forgiving people. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.                        R/Amen

Thank you once again. Be strong and persevere in the faith.

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