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 18 August 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 especially dedicated to women, let us continue to pray for all the women of our country, that the Lord will richly bless them, protect them and inspire them.

Let us now pray 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 the reflection is taken from the end of the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 20:1-16).

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Jesus had just related a parable comparing the Kingdom of God to a landowner who hired workers at various times of the day. The first lot he hired at about six in the morning and he agreed on a just wage with them for a full 12 hour day’s work. Then he hired others – some worked three hours, six hours, nine hours, others only one hour. The landowner made payment to the workers at the end of the day, paying them all the same amount starting with those who had worked the shortest time. The hopes of the first group were high and they thought they would get more since they had worked so much longer. Their hopes were dashed when they received only the agreed amount. They grumbled, but the landowner pointed out to them that they had no right to begrudge him his generosity.

The picture we get of the Kingdom of God from this parable is one of inclusivity – God’s Kingdom is open to all people. It displays a patience on the part of God who accepts those who have served him well throughout their lives, but who is also willing to give time to others to repent, mend their ways and convert. As St Peter put it, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pe 3:9).We see in the parable a generous God who truly desires the salvation of all and who shares his gifts bountifully with those he has created – Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow, says St James (1:17).

God is generous in the grace he bestows on us, in his mercy and in his forgiveness. It is all a free gift. We cannot earn God’s love, he grants it gratuitously. His generosity is not confined or restricted in any way. God’s Spirit blows where he wills, as we hear in St John’s Gospel,  the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8). It is against God’s nature to be miserly or mean with what he offers. It is not for us us to say who God will bless with his gifts and what gifts he will give them. We must not be envious when God grants gifts to others, even if we think them unworthy. Neither can we say who God will save and who he will not. We simply do not have that authority. God is a generous God, who offers his love and life to all his creatures. To repeat, we cannot earn his compassionate and forgiving love. It is a gift and we can only respond to it in gratitude.

The response we make is important. Sincere gratitude to God is first and foremost. Humble gratitude indicates that we realise what great gifts God has given us even though we remain unworthy of them. Secondly, just as God has been generous to us, so we respond by being generous to others so that we may reach out to those in any kind of need and assist them in whatever way we can. This may mean sharing our material resources, giving a listening ear or simply being a friend. St Paul captures this idea when he writes, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Thirdly, we respond to God’s generosity be being patient with others, helping them and encouraging them to change for the better, and not giving up on them (a small proviso here – if someone is making our lives a living hell, or we are in danger from them, obviously we have to make the correct decisions to protect ourselves).

In this time of Covid we need this generosity of spirit. Receiving the vaccine is one example of being generous because we don’t get vaccinated only to protect our own lives but also to protect the lives of others. Please vaccinate. Being generous with a smile, friendliness and cheerfulness goes a long way to lift the hearts of others who may be struggling within themselves. Finally, a very big thank you to all our parishioners for your generosity and your support – both material and moral – that you have shown the priests of the archdiocese. We really appreciate it and may God bless you.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Almighty Father, we thank for your generosity, for sharing your life and your love with us. Open our hearts and pour within them your love, that we too may always have generosity of spirit and so serve our neighbours with humility. Through Christ our Lord, amen