THE NEW YEAR 2022: reading the signs of the time (Part 2)
God speaks to us in many ways. With the gifts of the Spirit of piety, wisdom and understanding we can discern what He is trying to tell us. With the gift of fortitude we try to act according to that what we perceive to be His will. There is nothing more important for our faith life than to try to discern God’s will for us. Such an approach to our faith will get to know God as the One Who is always present, and His presence is never dull. Rather, it is ever exciting to engage God in the dialogue led by the question “God, what are you trying to tell me?”. When this has become an on-going exercise, the discovery is most astonishing: faith is the source of purpose, motivation and fulfilment. It is faith that is personal, interactive and participative with God.
To attempt this kind of faith life can also be very challenging because not everything is just as clear as one would like it to be. It is even more daunting once one realises that one is actually challenged to leave one’s comfort zone and venture into areas that are unknown. Such processes of serious discernment led people in the past to radically change the course of their lives.
Let me return to the signs of our time, which I regard as particularly significant for us and have found an echo in our souls. It is the desire for the Eucharist. This was the first and most severe loss we felt. Yes, just about every measure of restriction for us as Church had to do with the celebration of Holy Mass. Secularly, it featured as “social gathering” but we know that the repercussion was felt in our ability or inability to meet at the table of the Lord. We felt very deeply that who and what we are as Church was defined by if and how we can gather to celebrate Holy Mass. We needed Holy Communion and yearned for it. We had to make a very special effort to be able to attend Holy Mass. It was a more conscious decision than it was in the past when we could simply turn up. That is so great when someone says, ‘I have decided to go to Holy Mass and made every attempt to get there.’ It has definitely nudged us in the direction of becoming more conscious of what we are doing. Communion, however, is not just receiving our Lord in Holy Eucharist. It is also communion with the people of God who are our parishioners. God converses with us and shares His graces with us through others.
Another sign of our time is the increasing poverty, which is visible around us. It must affect us to see so many people on the street or hear of people who have lost their jobs. It is no longer a case of “them out there”. They are family members and people who come to our doors. The question is: what is God telling us?” How can we reach out to them and make a difference, especially, to the lives of children? Poverty is not just material when we consider the numerous families who have to battle with many emotional and mental problems. God’s will is that it is the time for compassion and healing.
The soul searching for the will of God has only begun.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
January 13, 2022
THE NEW YEAR 2022: reading the signs of the time (Part 1)
January 6, 2022
As the end of the year 2021 was approaching, one could hear a common sentiment – thank God the year is coming to an end. Somehow time was just flying at a breath-taking pace. It was frequently a feeling of being caught in a storm, which dealt very harsh blows as we saw loved ones passing on, people around us getting sick, and friends and family members losing jobs. Whereas previously the storm seemed to occasionally visit us, we now found ourselves in the eye of it. On the other hand, there were uplifting moments of babies born, young couples getting married and people coming together. The overriding sentiment, nevertheless, was that things simply didn’t want to fall into place. The social and political environment remained anything but hopeful. The burning of the Parliament building was almost symbolic of a year that fed us more of the same shambolics we were dished up, again and again by government. We end the year with the feeling that all was not well in the year 2021.
As Christians we remain hopeful. Our faith instructs us that we worship a God of history. Mention God, and you must mention the events in time where He revealed Himself. He is God involved in the course of events and the life of everyone. That remains a fact and an anchor in times of uncertainty and despair. To say “I believe” is to say God is with us, and He is in control. This must be said against those who claim that all the misery around is the Devil’s doing and that he is in control. No one may ever underestimate the presence and machinations of the Evil One. But no, never can he be in control. Jesus had the last say when he emphatically said no to death, hatred, division, corruption and sin. His cross is his sign of victory of love and our sign of confidence in his supremacy over evil. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the triumph of the Cross and the Father’s love for His Son. Every major building complex has an escape route in times of danger. Following the escape route, for example in case of fire, there is a gathering point, which is clearly designated. That gathering point for us is the Cross of Jesus Christ. No storm can overcome it. Many times, we thought if it is really true that God is in control. One can be forgiven for having such doubt. It is human. However, to prevail in that doubt would be to deny the triumph of the Cross. This kind of act of faith is by no means easy. It demands that we finally abdicate the throne of our own attempts to make sense of things and surrender to the logic of God, which is Jesus Christ crucified. The truth and purpose of the darkest moments are only revealed to those who hang on to the Cross until there is a glimmer of light. This is particularly true for those who have suffered immeasurable pain through the loss of loved ones this year or whose attempts to save a loved one have been in vain.
God is never silent. God listens to the cry of His People, and God speaks. God has spoken once and for all through Jesus, His Son. He is in Scripture. God speaks through the Church of Jesus Christ. And God speaks through the signs of the time. These signs are in our souls and their reactions to things happening; they are the signs in society and world; they are the signs in the teachings and initiatives of the Holy Father and the Bishops. These signs depend largely on the receptivity of the individual and groups who have an antenna to pick up the voice of God. These signs can be loud or simply, as in the case of Elijah, the murmur of the gentle breeze.
I think of those signs, which we felt and stirred a certain desire in us. In other words, when they were felt in souls, they also opened the soul for something corresponding. One such sign was the experience of being scattered (not divided). No matter how hard we tried, we simply had to succumb every time to the restriction that we could not gather as we wished. Instead, vigilance and cautiousness were the order of the day. The soul response was the increasingly deeper longing to be together. Instinctively, the sense grew that we must be free again to associate and bond. There must be an end to the world in the clutches of the virus so that social gatherings as the expression of free bonding can be possible. And not just for us, but for everyone everywhere. (Even the most selfish individual, group or nation knows it) It is the fundamental desire to be family. This desire goes well beyond just that of the own family. We lived with a universal awareness and belonging. What happens elsewhere, could me our reality tomorrow, or it could impact on us here with regards to economy, employment and cost of living. The desire for universal family is rising in the soul. We are in this together, we must survive and go forward together. We are sisters and brothers of a different kind – sisters and brothers of compassion for everyone. Because we now know each other across the borders of suburbs, townships, informal settlements and national borders. Our lives have become intertwined. Your pain is my pain, is our pain. Your joy in achievement is my and our joy.
The second sign is that of sickness and death. So many times, we heard that he or she was so healthy, yet the very next moment they were gone. Hardly a week passed without a funeral at Church, sometimes three or even four per week. Most of them, by the way, were not even directly Covid-19 related. Nevertheless, death has cast its long shadow over our lives. It has become a challenge to our faith and hope. At the same time, it has thrust into our thinking the question about life after death, about our bond with the dead, about hope for us and those who have died, about the significance and insignificance of the here and now and about how we esteem our life and the presence of others. Though open our minds to the prospect of eternity, death has turned our attention to how we live for others right now. Ultimately, we are to be concerned about the culture of generosity, which is our divine association with God.
These and other signs to be mentioned later constantly refer us back to the author of life and history, God in, through and with Jesus Christ, Who walks with us.
Our task is to develop the sensitivity to discern God’s presence and will.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig) January 6, 2022
Archbishop Desmond Tutu: the voice of the prophet is silent
A man of small stature with the heart of a lion. He did not fit into a mould, no matter how hard one tried to find one for him. That did not make him unpredictable or wavering in the wind or trimming his sails according to the latest winds. He was just true to himself. We all knew him as a man who walked on the big stages of our country and the world, mixing with leaders of nations, industry, politics and the like. Yet, he always remained the same humble, humorous Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He never took himself too seriously and could laugh at himself.
Archbishop Tutu was a public figure and famous. Yet, it is the snippets told here and there, which revealed the character of the man. He was first and foremost a man of God. Once he organized a protest march, much to the disapproval and consternation of the leaders of the United Democratic Front. Cheryl Carolus, a strong leader in her own right, challenged him bluntly: “Who gave you the mandate to organize the march?” Tutu shot back: “I have my mandate from God.” He never sought the acclaim of political leaders. His agenda was the will of God. That is what made him an awkward figure because his voice was prophetic, speaking straight and uncompromisingly.
Though he was a man of great compassion, all that mattered to him in an argument was the truth. He followed the advice his father once gave him: “Never raise your voice; raise your argument.”
As a man of God, he was a man of prayer. Peter Storey records that when he and Tutu were sharing rooms on their trips, Tutu would be up early in the morning. And there he was in a corner, covering himself with a bedsheet to create a space of privacy to say his prayers. The celebration of the Eucharist was his source of strength. His secretary when he became Archbishop of Cape Town remembers that on his travels he would go to a quiet corner on the airport to gather his travel companions around him and celebrate Holy Mass. Whenever he was sick at home or in hospital, he made sure that every day an Anglican priest brought him Holy Communion. In the eighties, when Cape Town went through violent and turbulent times in Crossroads the clergy from various Churches met to discuss the explosive situation. A Catholic priest remembers that Tutu was in the chair. When the clock struck 12 noon, Tutu rose and said: “According to an old tradition this is the time to pray the Angelus.” And he led them in prayer.
His faith was the bedrock of his universal love. It was almost as if he could not help it – he had no choice but to love and by his Christian faith felt compelled to do so. After a meeting with President P.W. Botha he said: “As a Christian, I must love him. He is my brother.” That was his approach towards every person. Very simple, that was the philosophy and theology of his life. It was his spirituality. Every person was an image and child of God. He had no space for hatred in his heart. That made him believe in the goodness in every human being, no matter how evil or brutal.
His sense of justice predestined him for his role in South African society. All he wanted was freedom and equal opportunities for all South Africans. He was often accused of mixing politics and religion, and of politicizing the Church. His secretary, Lavinia Crawford-Brown relates that when he became Archbishop of Cape Town, many white Anglicans left the Church. They accused him of being political. In the absence of political leaders who were constantly harassed, violently molested, imprisoned or forced to leave the country, the Church had to step in to represent the voice of the oppressed for the sake of the whole nation. Tutu never got involved in party politics. He was as critical of the ANC government as he was of the Apartheid government, calling them out for their injustices and corruption. When he had invited the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa, the ANC government refused the Dalai Lama entry into the country, caving in to pressure from China. Tutu was livid. In a press interview he lambasted the government saying: “I am warning you. I am warning you. I am warning you. Just as we prayed for the end of the Apartheid government, so we will pray for the end of the ANC government.” His mandate, as he said, was the will of God. God’s will cannot be spiritualized out of the context of the lives of people. Salvation does not take place in mid-air. It happens within the real social, economic and political context. That is how God presents Himself through the prophets in Scripture. The prophets held the leaders accountable before God.
Though he threw himself into the struggle for freedom, Archbishop Tutu never pandered to the emotions of the crowds. He maintained his position of non-violence and was deeply disappointed when during or after a protest march he heard of the destruction of property or violence against people. His opinion was that such perpetrators take the eye off the real cause. In one moment when he could have lost his life, he was exposed to the irrational mob who were going berserk. They had grabbed a man accused of conniving with the police and were going to necklace him. In fact, the tyre was already burning. Tutu jumped in to rescue the man and rebuked those who wanted to kill him. In that state of mob frenzy, they could easily have killed him.
Tutu was a very human person and deeply emotional. He loved to love and being loved. He was a man who enjoyed hugging, his daughter tells us. He could laugh and cry. One day, coming from Soweto, he returned to the offices of the Council of South African Churches, of which he was the General Secretary. Peter Storey narrates that Tutu burst into tears saying, “Peter, they are shooting our children. They are shooting our children.” And who can forget the moments when he broke down at hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when he heard the stories of pain.
In his heart he carried the vision for the new South Africa: the rainbow nation. To some it seemed that this vision is lying in tatters. The strength of vision is that it grasps the truth
and hope that remains a source of inspiration. It is, in the case of Tutu, prophetic and will never lose its relevance. It is work in progress and has its own dynamics to unfold and materialize. It is a beautiful image of who we are and can be as South Africans. Archbishop Tutu stood head and shoulders above a racist society. Even for his funeral, he ordered that his white friend, retired Anglican Bishop Nuttall of KZN should preach.
The prophetic voice of this man of God is now silent. It is up to all of us to take up the cudgels and work for the rainbow nation. We had to see in someone what the new South Africa can look like. He epitomizes and embodies it. He was known as the moral compass of South Africa. He showed the relevance of the Gospel for our times.
To him, Jesus now says: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25: 23) Archbishop Makgoba of the Anglican Archdiocese of Cape Town was called to his bedside on Christmas. He said Archbishop Tutu repeatedly said “Thank you, thank you.”
Thank you, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies December 30 2021 (Bothasig)
CHRISTMAS - irresistible and at the right time
Christmas is just irresistible in the way it has an affect on us. It becomes a guide that takes us by the hand to another space where we make the most unbelievable experiences of joy, togetherness, receiving and giving. It is hard to believe that so much is packed into one day. Regardless of the fact that the Church actually celebrates an octave, in other words for eight days we reflect on one and the same event through the lens of the birth of Jesus, we still want all of it on the one day – Christmas, the 25th of December. The following day, December 26, is already different and has its own atmosphere.
Sometimes it appears to me like being at major personal events such as a wedding or an important birthday where the whole purpose of the event is stacked into the one day of celebrations. Christmas has another dimension for us as Christians – time. We know that the new year begins on January 1. However, the feeling of a totally new beginning for us is Christmas, the birth of Jesus as God’s initiative of a new beginning with us, His People. Perhaps, that is what is so fascinating about Christmas. It is that we celebrate such an incredible event called birth. We are held spellbound by the birth and presence of a child.
Certain family customs automatically fall into place. When I was growing up, Christmas was the time for cleaning the house, one year the outside of the house was painted, the next year the inside. All of this was done in one go, especially the interior was a one-night activity. As a young person it was an honour to be allowed to stay up the whole night until the next morning to be part of the painting. The house was decorated with balloons and colourful crepe paper. An outsider must have thought that we were celebrating carnival. The neighbours did the same. Christmas lights went up in the house and over the shrubs and smaller trees outside. The mood was festive, and there was a sense of ecstasy hanging in the air. In their own way and according to their means, everyone was going “all-out”. New clothes worn for the first day added to the special feeling. Without a shadow of a doubt, the highlights were the family lunch and Midnight Mass. So much was packed into one day! We had the experience that we belonged to something great and were part of something great, which made huge changes to our lives. It was, indeed, the sense of a new beginning.
Christmas never happens in empty space. It enters into the very situations of our lives. Many of us will feel the absence of someone who died; or the absence of children who have moved to another place or country and cannot be present. We are bombarded with news of tragedies. There are inspiring stories of people helping each other and of strangers made welcome. The atmosphere of Christmas takes all of this into account. In fact, the very joy of Christmas makes us even more sensitive to the pain and joy around us. Then we know that the Son of God is not a myth or cultic celebration. Rather, he is born into our time. He has become part of us. All of the ecstasy comes to rest in the presence of the Child of Bethlehem – quiet, reflective, adoring. It is a fragile time, which we would like to hold on to.
This time around Christmas falls right into the on-going pandemic, which has brought so much misery to our families and country. We take a deep breath to renew our faith and trust in God Who is with us. He is God, Who is not aloof to our human condition.
Because He is with us, our joy is unbridled.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
December 24, 2021
LET THERE BE PEACE AND JOY
Ask anyone, and the response will be the same: Christmas is the time to be at home. Most people will make a special effort to be with family. It doesn’t matter how we see the miracle of the Incarnation of the Son of God, Christmas as a day weaves its own magic.
With all the outward celebrations, let us not lose sight of the substance of the day. In other words, let us see what makes the day so special for us. It comes from the actual event reflected in the scene of Bethlehem. When Jesus is born, there is peace and joy on earth and in heaven. There is a moment of coming-together between heaven and earth; it spells out that peace and joy, which is always so elusive, yet a permanent desire. This desire is particularly evident on Christmas. It seems as if we expect something incredibly magical to happen - that there be no arguments, no quarrels, no rejections, no jealousy, no family tiffs, no pain, hurting, no accidents, no deaths. We want to rest in an atmosphere of harmony. It is a day of love. Of course, we know that we are wishing for the humanly impossible. If people were not on good terms with each other, that is not going to change on Christmas. Nevertheless, it will not silence the wish for such harmony.
Peace and joy! It does come with Christmas and challenges us to make space for it. The Child in the manger keeps us spellbound while we are trying to articulate in our own way that we want to be family. What comes as message, promise and grace (peace and joy), must be granted space to grow among us. That can only happen when each one sees themselves as an instrument of peace and joy. That peace and joy must take hold in the very core of our hearts. Let us do away with sentiments, which evoke disharmony in us. And if we cannot do this on our own, there is still the God-with-us (Emmanuel) Whose presence is peace and harmony. Christmas is an act of faith. I believe that God is with me, that God became man for me, that God overcomes any barriers and that for God nothing is impossible. In other words, my point of departure is God, and not my own limited heart. I let the mercy and grace of God enter my heart to make it a space of peace and joy.
I am an instrument of peace and joy. This is my moral decision: what I receive and believe, becomes my responsibility. I declare myself responsible for the birth of Jesus who is the peacemaker. Or as St Paul puts it, we are ambassadors for Christ. Where I am, he is. I try as hard as possible to make sure that the space around me becomes space of peace and joy. I can achieve that because I have found the treasure of Bethlehem, Jesus, the Son of God. Being an instrument of peace implies that my major concern is to enable others to be joyful persons on this special day. That, however, includes that I set aside my habits and words, which could cause others grief and pain. There is enough of it throughout the year.
Peace and joy as a task imply that the little ones, our children, can experience the true meaning of Christmas. It is the one day that, generally speaking, makes the deepest impression on us. Who and what we are, all of that comes together on Christmas – people who love, care, enjoy being together, family spirit, unity and peace. Even during wars, the weapons were silent on Christmas.
We wish each other merry Christmas. Equally, we want to be the instruments of Jesus, the ambassadors of Bethlehem, to secure peace and joy. Christmas is the event that takes place where people work for peace and joy.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
December 17, 2021
IT IS ADVENT - Go to Joseph
Finally, we arrive at the moment we have all been waiting for – the conclusion of the Year of St Joseph in the parish! We do it by giving St Joseph a permanent place in our Church for the veneration and devotion he deserves.
Joseph is God’s lesson to us. Firstly, God teaches us that we should always try to look at a person a second time to find the best in him or her. The first time is often tainted by prejudice, hearsay or rumour. Invariably, this leads to a very superficial assessment of the other person. Joseph could be such a point in case. To everyone else, Joseph was just the carpenter of Nazareth. Nobody would have thought much of him other than that he was an upright man. But so were many others. You can only see well with the eyes of the heart, were the famous words of the fox to the Little Prince. In order to do that, the heart must be ordered and pure. God saw Joseph with the eyes of His heart and found the perfect match for His plan. Joseph was from the house of David. That ticked an important box because the Messiah was to come from there. In other words, objectively speaking Joseph was the right man. But what about his character, his faith, his personal qualities? All of these God obviously clearly noticed in this humble man. Joseph was a just man. That means, he was a man who lived by the truth. This time, however, the truth was of a different nature when the Angel appeared to him. It was not human truth, but unsettling truth, which the human mind of Joseph could not grasp and was not meant to grasp.
It was God’s intervention directly from heaven. And God’s thinking is never human thinking. However, the Angel found in Joseph a fast learner who asked the right questions and got the straight answers. Understanding God’s way, Joseph had the strength to realise that it was about his faith. He gave his Yes to God, even considering the darkness and lack of human understanding, which nevertheless prevailed. However, in total surrender to trust in God Whom he worshiped he decided to cooperate. Thereafter, he never questioned nor doubted. He became for Mary the pillar of strength and protection; for Jesus he became the example of the true man of loyalty and courage. He became for Jesus the first human encounter with the good shepherd who was prepared to lay down his life for his family. Jesus learned on a daily basis from Joseph what it meant to say, “Not my will but your will be done.” Because he put the will of God above his own will.
When we venerate St Joseph, we are drawn into the atmosphere of his personality and mission. In fact, it is his mission, which is of major interest to us. He served the plan of God to enable the Incarnation of the Son of God to be cared for. Joseph is the prime example of how the very world he lived in could be changed because he was a man of care. He discarded own interests for the interests of God. He risked his life to care for his family. There is an aura of maturity and peace about him. In simple terms, he leads us to understand that only an emotionally mature person can distance themselves from their own desires and interests without fear of loss or of being used and abused. He was fulfilled by simply serving God. He didn’t receive accolades and never waited for recognition and affirmation. Care is divine when it is done for God’s sake – to serve the other. Who knows if it will be successful, accepted or recognised? It is divine because its mere purpose is to reflect God’s will.
There is something comforting about the devotion of St Joseph because we find him on our side, reflecting our emotional, mental and spiritual ups and downs. St Joseph knew fear for the safety of his family, anxiety in the face of violent threats to the life of his son; he faced uncertain future and displacement from the cosiness of his own home to another country. He had to learn what it meant to dig deeper into faith, trust more and go further where there was no certainty of the outcome. Hope became the feature of his life because he believed in God for Whom nothing was impossible. What was going to become of his child of whom he heard glorious but also disturbing things from the prophet Simeon? And what about his dear wife, whose heart will be pierced by a sword? There was nothing he could do about it other than to love them even more and feel their hearts beating in his own. For that is true love. His heart anchored their lives. He felt their uncertainty, joy, pain and love, and he remained steadfast. In his manly dedication Mary found security and protection, and the love of a great man. Through his fatherly giving nature Jesus knew that with trust in his father, he could soar to greater heights.
The devotion of Joseph takes us on a short course into the mystery of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and the mission of Mary. He made the stage for them, he never took its centre, such was his humility. He bowed before the mystery of their lives where he found and served God.
In Advent – let us go to Joseph. He will lead us to Bethlehem where we, too, may kneel in adoration of the King of kings.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
December 10 2021
ST JOSEPH: Father of Jesus and husband of Mary
The Year of St Joseph ends on December 8, having started on December 8 last year. Lockdown has made it very difficult to focus and prepare. Yet, we did as best as we could. There were several Vatican directed highlights, such as the Year of the Family and the Year of the Eucharist. We, however, concentrated on Joseph, the Father of Jesus and Husband of Mary.
We did so by coordinating the monthly devotion of St Joseph, which was livestreamed to the whole Archdiocese. This initiative was welcomed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin who opened the devotions on March 19. Thereafter Bishop Sylvester came, followed by Deacon Johannes, Fr Gerardo Garcia CS,
Fr Rui Henriques, Fr Shaun Addinall, Fr Nkululeko Qokolo, Fr Shaun Cahill OFM Cap and Fr Mari Jo OCD. On December 8, Bishop Sylvester will do the final devotion. Leading up to the Solemnity of St Joseph on March 19, we prayed the novena to St Joseph. In spite of the setbacks imposed on us by lockdown restrictions, we persisted with our preparations by praying daily the Prayer of St Joseph. For the last nine weeks before the end of the Year, we have been praying a novena to St Joseph.
The highlight of the Year of St Joseph for our parish will be the unveiling of a statue of Joseph and Jesus on December 12 by Bishop Sylvester. After much research both in South Africa and abroad, we decided to call on local talent in our parish. Kenneth Bhima has been working on the statue for the last three months. Two of our ladies, who are seamstresses made garments for Joseph and Jesus with colours of the liturgical year, green, white, gold, red and purple.
For the last seven days before December 12, we shall pray every day at Church the devotion called the seven sorrows and joys of St Joseph, which reflect on his pain and joy. This will take place on December 5 - 11 at the end of Holy Mass.
The Year of St Joseph encouraged us to foster his devotion. In doing so, we are in touch with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. God would not entrust Mary and Jesus to anyone else but this humble, strong and dedicated man. The topics we had for the monthly devotions showed in proper perspective as a man of prayer, a hard worker, a family man, a father, a husband, a refugee and a friend in the hour of death. In this regard, Joseph is the example of the new man who is a person of care, commitment and loyalty. He is the example of what every man today should be. His faith and dedication make him a saint for our time whose main concern was to obey God by taking care of his family.
As parish, we want to give St Joseph a place of honour in our Church. The devotion to him must inspire us to strive for a deeper commitment to Christ and greater alertness to the needs of others.
St Joseph, pray for us
St Joseph, protect us
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
December 3, 2021
ADVENT – the special time for Love in Action
Lurking in the back of our minds, like a menace, is the Coronavirus pandemic. We have put out our pastoral programme, well aware that changes can take place depending on the regulations of the government and the Archdiocese. Even so, we don’t want to get bogged down by a mood of despair and frustration. This is the time for rejoicing and hope because we are preparing for the celebration of the coming of our Lord. It is the time to renew our resolve to do Love in Action. Advent is the answer of the Church.
The Season of Advent rings in the new year of the Church. Yes, you read well – the Church’s new year begins this Sunday and ends with the Solemnity of Christ the King next year. The year spans the desire of the people for the coming of Christ, the Messiah, who is to bring liberation to them until his second coming to judge the living and the dead. For us right now, we are waiting for the second coming of Christ, which covers the time from the First Sunday of Advent until the Third Sunday of Advent. The person in the foreground is St John the Baptist whose birth to his parents Elizabeth and Zacharias is the great trumpet blast that the new age of salvation has dawned. His birth is God placing the marker that “when the time was fulfilled, Christ was born”. The Fourth Sunday of Advent is dominated by the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She stands before us as the great believer, totally available to God’s plan of salvation. And so, our desire to meet our Saviour is intensified as we look forward to the time of forgiveness, reconciliation, generosity and love, which is so well exemplified by Mary. The colour for the Season of Advent is already the outward sign of something special happening: it is purple. This was in ancient times the colour reserved for kings and queens. And no wonder, because it was the most expensive colour to make. The Third Sunday is called “Rejoice Sunday”. Our mood changes slightly from the sober, austere and reserved spirit to a spirit of anticipation and celebration. We hold our breath and stand in awe because the Saviour is about to be born into our time. The colour for the Third Sunday of Advent is rose, indicating the spirit of rejoicing.
We know that the outward mood of the time is one of ecstasy and celebration. And there is very little we can do about it. The outward mood sweeps us off our feet. To a certain degree, we should allow that to happen, because we can still make such outward going the very moment for a deep inward experience. May I make some suggestions? The idea really is to live in the moment and savour the special presence and work of God. In other words, how can we live Love in Action?
- Read the readings of the day and Sundays. They are beautiful and take us through some very intimate moments of the Bible. We meet the great figures of our history of redemption in the likes of the prophets especially Isaiah with his great longing and visions of a new time of harmony and reconciliation. We read about the miraculous childbirth of Samuel and Samson who show the work of the Almighty God away from the glaring eye of society and in the quiet moments of the lives of the humble people. It is a time to read our Bible to live in the moment. 2. Have the symbols of Advent in our homes. Get the Advent wreath, usually a green circle with four candles. The wreath or circle predates Christianity as symbol of infinite life, with green as the colour for life and hope. That life is Christ, the beginning and end. The candles represent the four Sundays of Advent. Light a candle for every week. 3. Read Christmas stories. Story telling is a great experience to capture the message of Christmas. Take the Bible story of the birth of Jesus. But there are so many different modern ones, which will warm our hearts. They are stories of the victory of human spirit over selfishness and of new life. 4. And oh yes, send whattsapp messages of spiritual uplifting. Create whattsapp chat groups solely for Advent and Christmas inspiration. (Avoid the temptation to use them for another purpose!) 5. TAKE OFF TIME FOR CHILDREN! It is their time, the time for the coming of the Child Jesus. 6. Talk to children about your own good Advent and Christmas experiences. 7. Sing Christmas Carols at home and go to Carols and Nativity plays. It all helps to slow us down, refocus and live in the moment of the desire for the coming of Jesus into our lives. 8. Buy meaningful presents. Be creative, make small presents with own hands! They become presents with great sentimental value for life! 9. Write Christmas cards, not Seasons Greetings (Christians write greetings pertaining to the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son sent by God into the world to be our Saviour.) 10. Make time for the family. Sit down for meals together. It helps us to slow down; take time, don’t rush. We all want just a little bit of attention and being in each other’s presence. 11. Be generous. For everything you buy, give a certain percentage to charity! The parking and petrol attendants will love you. 12. Share food! 13. Decorate the house for Christmas. 14. Don’t forget to save water and electricity. Advent and Christmas is about God taking care of His People and Creation waiting to be set free. 15. Pay a visit to someone who is home-bound, elderly or sick. The festive season increases loneliness and pain. 16. Make a child happy; it is the only time when God’s heart skips a beat. Because He sent His only Son into the world. If you can’t do it, get someone to do it on your behalf.
Live in the moment of Advent and Christmas. Make sure that Christmas does not catch you off-guard when it arrives. And above all, make unity and love, your real purpose for the Season of Advent and Christmas. That is the reason why Christ is born. It is the time for Love in Action.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies, Bothasig)
November 25, 2021
CHRIST THE KING AND ST JOSEPH
“Jesus is Lord.” (John 21: 7) That is what the beloved disciple tells Peter. That is a familiar title, and we use it all the time. Hardly ever do we use the title king or pray to him as such. Yet, without a shadow of doubt, we are always aware that he is supreme over all powers of darkness and evil. His kingship, however, is anything but worldly. Yes, it is fair to say certain things that we say of earthly kings at the hight of their power – great, majestic, powerful, supreme, sitting on a throne. But all of that is subject to how he became king. How was he enthroned to that position that he is even called the King of kings? He became a king through his Passion and Crucifixion. Even Pilate, by some kind of freakish insight, recognised him to be a king and put a purple robe, the colour of kingship on him. Then he instructed to have words inscribed in three languages, Hebrew, Greek and Latin: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews. The Jews objected, “Don’t write ‘King of the Jews’ but that ‘He says, I am the King of the Jews’.” but Pilate, for once, remained steadfast: “What I have written, I have written” (John 19: 21), he replied. And that is what we see when we look at Jesus on the Cross. How different is he as a king? His throne, which he ascended, is the Cross. His crown is a crown of thorns.
We are reminded of the kings in the Old Testament in their best form. There a true king is a shepherd whose duty it was, among other things, to care for the widows, the orphans and the strangers. These were the social groups without rights and, therefore, under the direct protection of the king. Secondly, he had to secure peace within the borders of his country. In this way, he, the earthly shepherd-king, was the representative and reflection of the one and only Shepherd Who is God Himself. Jesus connects to this noble understanding when he refers to himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10) who is so personal, knowledgeable of his sheep, and caring to the point of sacrificing himself for their wellbeing. In fact, Jesus, the very Shepherd-King, has one rule for his way of exercising power: I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance (John 10: 10). And how does he do it? By being a servant, a slave to all. The King who is the Shepherd-King, is the Servant-King. He binds the wounded, leads the sheep to green pastures, searches for the lost ones and carries home the weary sheep. Though he, the Christ, was in the likeness of God, he emptied himself, to the point of dying on the Cross. (Philippians 2: 7)
Now this is the King we celebrate today. He has earned the right to be called “Christ our King”, which gives us the right to be called a royal people, royal sisters and brothers. To him we owe loyalty and belonging. We owe him obedience and service. What we are, is what we should become: “loyal subjects, working hard in the service of our King. What pleases him most is not our adulation and praise but our way of following him in caring for others. By this shall others know that we belong to him, if we love one another as he has loved us; if we remain in his love. And it is if we are one, as he and the Father are one. His royal court is the place to be in love and to experience the safe space to live in peace.
It must go one step further, according to the life of Christ our King: serve like a slave, and you will become a king of hearts. Again, we read Phil 2: 7: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” That is, how you become what you already are. By serving others and being a blessing to them is the best way to do service to Christ the King. Even and especially when it hurts. Becoming a king by serving is to ascend the same throne, on which Jesus became our King – on the Cross. “Take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24) This leads to the joyful discovery of our true dignity as a royal people.
Is there an example in the very life of Jesus whom we can identify? Undoubtedly, there is one. That is Joseph, the father of Jesus. His life and purpose were to serve. Take Mary and take Mary and the Child. He was the protector and servant entrusted with the greatest task of all time: look after Mary and the Child, which she has conceived by the Holy Spirit. He dedicated his whole life to fulfilling that task. Joseph loved Mary and she was the centre of his heart. At the same time, however, through her virginal conception of the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, she became for him the totally other. He treated her with all the affection he felt for her; at the same time, like a servant, he stood back in awe and reverence. She was his not to possess but to take care of in the service of the Most High. The humble home of Nazareth became the palace of the Queen and King, of Mary and Jesus. Their court became a haven of peace, protection and love – through Joseph. In fact, Joseph made the prophecy fulfilled, that the Messiah will come from the House of King David, of which he was a descendant.
Where does this leave us? We are subjects of the King of kings; we are royal sisters and brothers. Our first duty is to acknowledge that and see ourselves in the light of Christ our King. He earned for us the right to such high dignity. That leads us to royal service of care, protection and blessing. Everything we do, no matter how menial, can be and should be done with the attitude that we are doing royal service. It is to give glory to our King. The most important service, however, is to care for those who need our care. (Matthew 25: 31-40) Joseph shows the way. We can imitate his attitude by simply being present, listening, and giving others the space to be safe and feel looked after.
Our homes must become places where royal court is held that secures love and peace. They must be palaces of Christ our King where the needy are welcome to meet their Shepherd and Servant King. He deserves only the best: of our time, skills and material wealth – for the sake of others. I have the royal duty of care for my family. We derive such an understanding from the fact that Jesus made each one of us such a king. The moral and practical implication is that on the forehead of each and every person there is a crown. That means, that every person deserves respect for their dignity and care for their wellbeing.
However, it begins with me. I must see my life in the light of being redeemed by my King. And he has called me into his service where I experience what it means to be with and around a King. It is the re-discovery of my highest dignity, which I share with every other person. The promise of Jesus is that where he goes, he will prepare a place for us (John 14: 3): in the house, yes, the heavenly palace with many rooms with the Father in the Holy Spirit.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
November 18, 2021
THE SYNOD OF THE BISHOPS IN ROME 2023: PART 5
THE CHURCH WANTS TO HEAR YOUR VOICE
The preparation for the Synod of Bishops 2023 is an exciting time for the Church, for you and me. This vibe can take hold of us if we take this time of preparation seriously and personally. There are certain reactions that may stop us or slow us down. They have to do with past experiences, in which the Church did not appear to listen. These were the times of disillusion and disappointment. What is the point of making your voice known if there is little or no reaction? Many of our laity are sceptical when they hear that they will be treated as equals in the Church. There is no such a thing, they object. So many times, when they did try to make their voices known, they were rebuffed. Other times they feared reprisals from the pulpit and when they did have the courage of their convictions, they preferred to remain anonymous. Tardy and indecisive reaction from the top made matters only worse. We cannot simply gloss over these experiences because they reflect a certain understanding of Church and its functions. Basically, it was a Church remaining hierarchical in principle and in the execution of its tasks. On ground level this meant that only what Father says, goes. Though there are positive experiences, the overriding sentiment still is that we leave matters to the priests and bishops. Therefore, many feel, let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. Then there are also previous experiences of surveys, conferences, opinion polls and the like that did not seem to come to fruition.
Church manifests the Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the world. It is instituted by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the salvific will of the Father for all nations. Church is guided by the Apostles of Christ and their followers, the Bishops with the Pope to lead them. The Incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus becoming man, meant that God the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit entered our world and socialised with love, kindness, forgiveness, truth and mercy. Jesus Christ is the proof that God is love when he died on the Cross, was raised from the dead and ascended to the Father. We have since all been drawn into the salvation of Christ, taking us to the Father in the Holy Spirit. Our mandate on earth is to evangelise, to proclaim whether opportune or not that “Jesus is Lord”. However, in order to do that, we must all embrace the idea of apostolate. It is the fact of being sent out by Jesus, like the Apostles, to go forth and proclaim. This requires a new understanding of Church as we read in the papers of the Synod. It is a Church, which respects every member to become such an apostle. This is underpinned by the traditional interpretation that the people of God are the voice of God (vox populi vox Dei) and that they embody a certain sense of the will and direction of God (sensum fidelium). It is not a favour granted to them; it is their right by virtue of baptism that they share in the common priesthood of Christ as priest, prophet and king. If that is the case, then the lay people must be trained to voice their opinion, given the opportunity to do that in an organised, structured form, and become engaged in dialogue with institutionalised authority such as bishops and priests.
What can we do? Reading the documents of the Synod for the preparation, it is important that we give the Church the benefit of the doubt. It is seriously wanting to listen. And what a different and vibrant Church we would have if we do get engaged in this listening process. The Church wants to tap into the resources of its own people, endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The charisms of people are the fire of a forward moving Church of promise and hope. Everyone is a “living stone” in the building with Christ as the cornerstone. The hands of bishops and priests are tied unless they are interactive with the members and foster a leadership style that is participative. No one knows the outcome of the preparation. By definition, the Church is hierarchical in Christ, its Head, with the authority of discernment and leadership vested in the bishops. The bishops receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to exercise that authority in the form of service and unifying the people of God. They do that with the assistance of the priests. But now the preparation time of the Synod has introduced a shift: it is to listen to the lay people. We must, therefore, consider that there is a real element of freedom of speech. The right to speak up implies the duty to participate. We are being guided by the documents and questionnaires to articulate our opinions. Assistance will be available to help with the process of listening. In other words, it takes place in an orderly fashion.
It is time for the “sleeping giant” called the lay people to awake from their slumber. Don’t leave it to the next one. Become part of the listening process. Let us trust the Holy Spirit. Let the Church hear your voice.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig), November 12, 2021
Theme: THEY HAVE GONE BEFORE US
November is dedicated to the dead. It rounds up the year, which started with the First Sunday of Advent to set us on course for the celebration of events that focus on outstanding moments of God's revelation of His saving love for us. That love is the Incarnation of the Son of God, who was crucified, died and buried. Who rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father. From there he will judge the living and the dead. Every year we repeat the same cycle. Yet, it's never the same. Woven into it are the many real life experiences, which are interpreted in the light of Jesus. The year ends, at least liturgically, with the great Solemnity of Christ the King who holds together the great cosmos as the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. November, however, reawakens the memories of our deceased. For a whole month we do our Christian duty to pray for them. In doing so, we release their souls into the hands of the merciful Judge. Some died long ago; others died just recently. The past year showed the inevitable presence of death. For many of us, mourning has been difficult. And with good reason. It's still too fresh to be real, too sore to rationalise, too present to leave the past. We see just how intertwined our lives were, the lines of "me" and "you" waiting to meet. And that's never possible. Everything seems to bear the hallmark of being unfinished. Death is final but it doesn't mean that it has the last word.
On the contrary, it opened a whole new chapter called “Life with the dead”. From the point of view of our Christian faith, we don’t deny or gloss over death. Our entire faith is based on joining Christ the King who leads us victoriously home to the Father through the Holy Spirit. Our lives bear the seal of the Triune God. That is part of our journey with our deceased loved ones. That’s where the new chapter begins for us in all earnestness. “Where they have gone, we hope to follow.” Our never-stopping love for them is to wish them the greatest prize of all – love that never ends. We pray for that. While we are mourning, let us also cheer them on. For Jesus said, come, you faithful servant, take up the place prepared for you since the beginning of the world. Our mourning may spur us on never to let go of being their cheerleaders until we too are led home by the victorious King.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
October 27, 2021
THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS IN ROME 2023 PART 3:
The participant – that is me
The success of the preparation for the Synod 2023 stands and falls on the participation that will take place from now until it concludes in April 2022. Before that can happen, we must see in how far it has found any positive reception in our hearts. Is it something I can relate to? Or does it sound too far away, too big, too remote? After all, the expectation is that I, here in my smallness, must make a contribution for the future of the universal Church. Does it matter if I say anything if so many others are going to have their say? What priority must I give to it if I have so many other more urgent things on my mind?
We know how it is. Many things appear on my mental and emotional radar – family, work, finances, food, repairs etc. These are things that demand my immediate attention. Now, there is something out of the cold that asks me to pay attention to it. It all comes down to relevance and receptivity. Is what is happening in the Church important to me at all? That, of course, depends on how open I am to what Is happening. Something that seems unimportant to others can be very important to me. E.g. the football match of my grandson will feature more important than even something as significant as the elections. Naturally, parish matters will be closer to my heart than diocesan matters because in the parish I am more directly affected. Is it going to be relevant at all? In fact, how relevant is Church to our society, families and country when we look around us? One thing we know: the relevance of the Church begins with one person – me.
Now the Church universal is asking something very special of me. This does not happen all too often. We know, however, that the universal contact with the Church is everywhere around us. During Holy Mass we pray in the intentions of the Church, the Pope and the world. The redeeming sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is for the salvation of the world. We celebrate the feast days of the universal Church. We take collections in support of the universal Church. In the Creed every Sunday we profess that “I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church”. In other words, the notion that we are part of such a universal Church is nothing new to us. It is central to our identity as Roman Catholics.
This time, however, we are invited to take part in a special venture, called the preparation for the Synod of Bishops 2023. The aim of the Synod is to help programme the course of direction of the Church into the near future. We are asked to take to heart the interests of the Church and give them some space in our active daily lives, which have other priorities.
Why am I so important to the Church? Because I am a baptized Catholic Christian, sharing in the common priesthood of Jesus Christ, our High Priest. It is because my active participation is not just now but every where and every time in the Church. It is because Church is central to my life. It is because the Holy Spirit speaks and acts through every member of the Church. It is because I am part of a community that matters to me.
What must I do? I must take the information I will get through the parish. I will be invited to take part in the different steps of a questionnaire, through which I will forward my views.
There is something else we must bear in mind. The exercise we are about to undertake should really be the “style” of doing and being Church: Church listening and Church participating, and Church, becoming an instrument of spreading the Gospel in a meaningful, relevant way today.
The depth of the whole process of the preparation will depend on one thing alone: am I willing to participate? Our experiences tell us that people blow hot and cold when it comes to voluntary activities in the parish. Not many have the stamina to walk the talk. In fact, too many still entertain the mindset that Church is there to serve their needs. This time, however, the Church says that she needs us. Let us stand up and be counted!
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
October 22, 2021
THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS IN ROME 2023 PART 2:
The pillars – communion, participation and mission
Ever so often new words enter our vocabulary and conversation. Until not so long ago who would have given words such as lockdown or curfew second thought. Now even our youngest children are using them. For the Church, well, something similar is going to happen over the next two years. We shall just have to get used the word “synod or synodality”. This is the focus of the universal Church, and we are drawn into its magnetic field.
Perhaps the use and practice of “synodality” is long overdue because now “the Church recognises that synodality is an integral part of her very nature”. It entails the participation of every baptised person in the life and running of the Church. On the other hand, under closer scrutiny, some aspects of it are already evident. On parish level that is certainly the case when it comes to the nature and work of the parish and finance council. Both bodies keep their ears on the ground to listen to the parishioners and represent their views. More can be done for these two structures to function more optimally.
So what is the aim of synodality? It is to engage the teaching of the Pope and the bishops in a dialogue with the People of God (laity, consecrated and ordained persons). “The path of synodality seeks to make pastoral decisions reflect the will of God as closely as possible, grounding them in the living voice of the People of God.” (Vademecum for the Synod on Synodality 1.3) The dialogue is totally open, and any suggestions are welcome. How open the dialogue or acceptance of the outcome of it is going to be remains to be seen. The Church’s doctrine, moral and social teachings already define certain parameters and boundaries, beyond which the Church will not venture, e.g. priesthood of women. Nevertheless, the local Churches are “encouraged to focus on maximum inclusion and participation, reaching out to involve the greatest number of people possible, and especially those on the periphery who are often excluded and forgotten. Encouraging the widest participation possible will help to ensure that the syntheses formulated at the levels of dioceses, episcopal conferences, and the whole Church capture the true realities and lived experience of the People of God. Because this engagement of the People of God is foundational, and a first taste of the experience of synodality for many”. (Vademecum 1.5)
This is an interesting comment: the People of God will speak; the hierarchy (bishops) will listen.
The synodal path is not clutched from thin air or left to individual whim. Rather, the guiding principles are communion, participation and mission within the local context, which reflects the diversity of Church life.
“Communion, participation and mission” are also called the “three dimensions” or “the vital pillars of a Synodal Church”. (Vademecum 1.4)
What is meant by them? “Communion”. It is the people of one faith whom God gathers through His covenant. Our communion is rooted in the love and unity of the Trinity. Communion is the fruit of the dynamic redeeming life of Christ in the Holy Spirit. As People of God, that is as communion, we (i.e. all of us) are called to discern and live God’s will. Communion with its inclusive understanding of Church clearly wants to expand the understanding of Church as an exclusively a hierarchical Church
Participation: it is to “engage in the exercise of deep and respectful listening to one another”. (1.4) The importance of this process of listening is that it “creates the space for us to hear the Holy Spirit together and guides our aspirations for the Church of the Third Millennium”. (1.4) The main challenge is going to be the inclusiveness of the listening process: “Genuine efforts must be made to ensure the inclusion of those at the margins or who feel excluded”. (1.4) How is this going to happen at parish level?
Mission: “Church exists to evangelise.” (1.4) This statement should rattle us into analysing if that is true for us right here in our parish. More precisely formulated: “Our mission is to witness to the love of God in the midst of the whole human family.” (1.4) By following the synodal path and attempting to implement it as we go along, we should learn to better live by the Gospel and give witness to it. Mission implies that we can be more fully “a leaven at the service of the coming of God’s kingdom”.
These three pillars, communion, participation and mission” will be crucial for our own local parish pastoral life and planning. In fact, they can initiate a totally new understanding of Church in general, and local parish Church in particular.
The “synodal journey”, which starts with listening should become the “style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church” (1.2). Let us try to practise this in our parish.
For a start, we can already reflect on how we have or have not experienced parish as communion. We can discern how our participation in parish life has been and how it can be improved. We can question ourselves whether or not we have really been a parish giving witness to the Gospel in the sense of fulfilling our calling to be and do mission. It is important, however, to stay clear of generalisations. Finally, personalise these dimensions. In other words, how did I experience or contribute to communion, participation and mission.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
October 14, 2021
THE SYNOD 2023: a time for journeying in faith with the entire Church
On 21 May 2021, Pope Francis announced the Synod of Bishops to be held in October 2023. It has a threefold focus: Communion, Participation and Mission. However, the question is begging, “what is a synod?” Or to put it more complicatedly, what is synodality? The following text is taken directly from the official work document in preparation for the Synod “For a synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission”, 1.2 What is Synodality? Background for this Synod.
“By convening this Synod, Pope Francis invites the entire Church to reflect on a theme that is decisive for its life and mission: “It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium.” Following in the wake of this renewal of the Church proposed by the Second Vatican Council, this common journey together is both a gift and a task. By reflecting together on the journey that has been made so far, the diverse members of the Church will be able to learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives, guided by the Holy Spirit (PD,1). Enlightened by the Word of God and united in prayer, we will be able to discern the processes to seek God’s will and pursue the pathways to which God calls us – towards deeper communion, fuller participation, and greater openness to fulfilling our mission in the world. The International Theological Commission (ITC) describes synodality this way:
‘Synod’ is an ancient and venerable word in the Tradition of the Church, whose meaning draws on the deepest themes of Revelation […] It indicates the path along which the People of God walk together. Equally, it refers to the Lord Jesus, who presents Himself as the ‘way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 14:6), and to the fact that Christians, His followers, were originally called the ‘followers of the Way’ (cf Acts 9:2; 19:9.23; 24: 14.22).
First and foremost, synodality denotes the particular style that qualifies the life and mission of the Church, expressing her nature as the People of God journeying together and gathering in assembly, summoned by the Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. Synodality ought to be expressed in the Church’s ordinary way of living and working.
In this sense, synodality enables the entire People of God to walk forward together, listening to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, to participate in the mission of the Church in the communion that Christ establishes between us. Ultimately, this path of walking together is the most effective way of manifesting and putting into practice the nature of the Church as the pilgrim and missionary People of God (PD,1).
The entire People of God shares a common dignity and vocation through Baptism. All of us are called in virtue of our Baptism to be active participants in the life of the Church. In parishes, small Christian communities, lay movements, religious communities, and other forms of communion, women and men, young people and the elderly, we are all invited to listen to one another in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who comes to guide our human efforts, breathing life and vitality into the Church and leading us into deeper communion for our mission in the world. As the Church embarks on this synodal journey, we must strive to ground ourselves in experiences of authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.” (End of quotation).
It is not difficult for us at Good Shepherd Catholic Church to grasp this process. It is what we have practised year after year to discern God’s will for our parish and formulate it in a pastoral theme, e.g. Unity in Love and Love in Action. The pastoral theme we expressed in a symbol and prayer. Our attitude was that the Holy Spirit speaks through each parishioner. We have followed the steps of listening by giving out questionaires. The feedback was collated and evaluated. At our Annual General Meeting we concentrated on the journey of the parish and the way forward. Following the pastoral theme, we laid out spiritual attitudes and practical applications.
The new process of “synodality” could the beginning of an exciting time for the Church and our parish.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
October , 2021
|, LOVE IN ACTION PRAYER
Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, you called your disciples to follow you and be united in love. You sent them to proclaim the Good News to all people in every nation. Now you send and compel us to do Love in Action. In Faith, we say: here we are Lord, we come to do your will. Send us to pray, work and sacrifice for your kingdom of love in our parish, families and country. Mary, our Mother, intercede for us to be like you, an instrument of the Father for Love in Action, to bring Christ to others. Amen.
JOSEPH – as Pope Francis sees him
On December 8 1870 Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph as Patron of the Catholic Church. This was reason enough for Pope Francis “to share some personal reflections on this extraordinary figure, so close to our human experience”, which he undertook in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a father’s heart) of December 8 2020. Ever since we have found ourselves in the Year of St Joseph, which ends on December 8 2021. As Pope Francis, in conclusion, states: “The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.” The Apostolic Letter takes us to St Joseph, then from him to our own personal identity and experiences, and from them to the social relevance of Joseph.
The opening line is, for all intents and purposes, the summary of the Pope’s reflections: “With a father’s heart: that is how Joseph loved Jesus, whom all four Gospels refer to as ‘the son of Joseph’. The biblical evidence of Joseph is rather thin but in it everything is said about the stature of this humble servant of God, father of Jesus and husband of Mary. He is placed at the very centre of God’s plan of salvation to “send His Son into the world” (John 3: 16). Consequently, and not surprisingly, “After Mary, the Mother of God, no saint is mentioned more frequently in the papal magisterium than Joseph, her spouse. His role in the Catholic Church was further enhanced by proclamation of the popes: Pope IX declared him “Patron of the Catholic Church”, Pope Pius XII declared him as the “Patron of Workers” and Pope St John Paul II as Guardian of the Redeemer”. Pope Francis, further highlighting the universal significance of Joseph, professes that Joseph “is universally invoked as the ‘patron of a happy death’.
The context of the Apostolic Letter is the dire circumstances of the world in the vice grip of the Coronavirus pandemic. People who are usually taken for granted or overlooked have emerged as the pillars of society. “Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so many others. They understood that no one is saved alone.” The relevance of Joseph now emerges: “Each one of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.” Joseph makes us sensitive to the presence of persons who are standing in the shadows of society, yet are so important. He “reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.” These words of the Pope reveal the Apostolic Letter as one that belongs to the social teachings of the Church. Through the medium of Joseph, the essential workers of society and our gratitude to them are given first priority in a time of crisis. By focussing on Joseph, Pope Francis wants to inculcate a deeper understanding of the essential workers who are facing the brunt of this pandemic and who should, also in future, never be forgotten.
Joseph emerges in this Letter as God’s essential worker by being and doing everything with a “father’s heart”. The reflection sees Joseph in biblical significance as a person shedding light on our society and Church today.
The Letter than goes on to outline the characteristics of Joseph as
- a beloved father: fatherhood in the human family and of the Christian people.
- a tender and loving father: fatherhood as showing the tender love to Jesus and God’s tender love to all.
- an obedient father: a father as being in total acceptance of God’s will and as “a minister of salvation”
- an accepting father: in a time of violence against women, Joseph “appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man”. He accepts circumstances he does not understand and actively embraces them to make them part of his own history. In Jesus, we can be reconciled to our own history, even if we cannot understand it completely; the social significance of Joseph emerges: “Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak.” This is “the first stage of our interior healing”, “to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life that we did not choose”.
- a creatively courageous father: “this emerges in the way we deal with difficulties”; Joseph faced the threat posed by Herod. He showed that we can trust God but also that God trusted him to find a solution to the difficult situation. “If at times God seems not to help us, surely this does not mean that we have been abandoned, but instead are being trusted to plan, to be creative, and to find solutions ourselves.
- a working father: in our day and age, “there is the renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which Saint Joseph is an exemplary patron”. Knowing the importance of work in this time of crisis, Pope Francis says: “The crisis of our time (…) can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new ‘normal’ from which no one is excluded”; in fact, no one should be excluded from work.
- a father in the shadows: a father, far from just being a biological father, a father is one who takes responsibility for his child. The Pope understands manhood in this light: “Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person.” In this regard “Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift. A father does not seek self-gain. Remaining in the shadows, he seeks to enhance and serve life so that it can reach its own fulfilment. And beyond that, it is to show to “a greater fatherhood”. “In a way, we are all like Joseph: shadow of the heavenly Father (…) a shadow that follows his Son.”
The Apostolic Letter wants us to see Joseph in the light of salvation history, our personal lives and the life of Church and society. We, thereby, will find reason to love and respect him, which lead to a personal devotion to him.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 29, 2021
JOSEPH: what Pope John Paul II says about him in the Apostolic Exhortation “Guardian of the Redeemer” (August 15 1989)
The Pope outlines the six main parts of his exhortation:
- The Gospel Portrait
- II The guardian of the mystery of God
- A just man, a husband
- Work as an expression of love
- The primacy of the interior life
- Patron of the Church in our day
He emphasises the role of Joseph, together with Mary:
Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and in relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God's self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning." "The Gospels clearly describe the fatherly responsibility of Joseph toward Jesus. For salvation-which comes through the humanity of Jesus-is realized in actions which are an everyday part of family life... All of the so-called "private" or "hidden" life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph's guardianship. "
Pope John Paul II pointed out that as legal guardian of the child Jesus, Joseph fulfilled all the obligations that entailed: in having his son circumcised according to the law, in conferring a name upon him, and in presenting him in the Temple at the prescribed time.
Jesus grew up under the watchful eyes of Joseph...For his part, Jesus "was obedient to them" (Lk 2:51), respectfully returning the affection of his 'parents'. In this way he wished to sanctify the obligations of the family and of work, which he performed at the side of Joseph.”
Further, the Church venerates the Holy Family, and proposes it as the model of all families, with Joseph as the father “who full shares in an authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family.
Joseph was a man of everyday life and sanctity. "What is crucially important here is the sanctification of daily life, a sanctification which each person must acquire according to his or her own state, and one which can be promoted according to a model accessible to all people."
The Church calls on the protection of Saint Joseph on the basis of "that sacred bond of charity which united him to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God," and that the Church has commended to Joseph all of her cares, including those dangers which threaten the human family. "Besides trusting in Joseph's sure protection, the Church also trusts in his noble example, which transcends all individual states of life and serves as a model for the entire Christian community, whatever the condition and duties of each of its members may be." Joseph is the model of obedience, the man known for having faithfully carried out God's commands.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 23, 2021
What Pope Leo XIII says about him
On August 15th, 1889, Pope Leo XIII issued an encyclical “On devotion to Joseph” (also called by its Latin name “Quamquam Pluries”). The context is the upheavals of the time, summed up as an age of lawlessness. “You know the times, in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity. These things are, indeed, so much a matter of notoriety that it is needless for Us to expatiate on the depths to which society has sunk in these days, or on the designs which now agitate the minds of men. In circumstances so unhappy and troublesome, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.”
In such times, the Church took her flight to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. But the Pope now refers the Church to the patronage of St Joseph. In fact, he says, “and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself.” Pope Leo XIII encourages us to make the devotion to St Joseph part of our regular devotions.
The devotion to Joseph and his dignity are based on the fact that he is the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. He, thereby, takes part in the dignity of Mary and Jesus. He “became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties”. He guards over the Christians, by virtue of his care of the Holy Family, with “paternal authority”.
Pope Leo XIII draws the analogy between Joseph of the Old Testament and Joseph of the New Testament. Joseph, the son of Jacob, guarded over the resources of Egypt to look after people during time of starvation. In the same way, Joseph of the New Testament, “should be regarded as the protector and defender of the Church, which is truly the house of the Lord and the kingdom of God on earth”. He is in every regard a remarkable example of a spouse, father and worker.
(It is not difficult to see just how applicable to our own time this letter of the Pope is.)
In conclusion the Pope offers a prayer to be said to St Joseph:
“To thee, O blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and having implored the help of thy thrice holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eye upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His blood, and wilt succour us in our need by thy power and strength.
Defend, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen off-spring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving Father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender, in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that, following thine example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death, and attain to everlasting bliss in Heaven. Amen.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 16, 2021
POPE PIUS IX: Declaration of Joseph as Patron of the
Universal Church, 8 December 1870
The following newsletter articles bring the words of the Popes on St Joseph. This one is the decree of the decision of Pope Pius IX to proclaim St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.
“As Almighty God appointed Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob, over all the land of Egypt to save grain for the people, so when the fullness of time had come and He was about to send to earth His only-begotten Son, the Saviour of the world, He chose another Joseph, of whom the first had been the type and He made him the lord and chief of His household and possessions, the guardian of His choicest treasures.
Indeed, he had as his spouse, the Immaculate Virgin Mary, of whom was born by the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ our Lord, who deigned to be reputed of men as the son of Joseph and was subject to him.
Him whom countless kings and prophets had desired to see, Joseph not only saw bur conversed with, and embraced in paternal affection, and kissed. He most diligently reared Him whom the faithful were to receive as the bread that came down from heaven whereby they might obtain eternal life.
Because of this sublime dignity which God conferred on his most faithful servant, the Church has always most highly honoured and praised blessed
Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God, and has besought his intercession in times of trouble.
And now, therefore, when in these most troublesome times the Church is beset by enemies on every side and is weighed down by calamities so heavy that ungodly men assert that the gates of hell have at length prevailed against her, the venerable prelates of the whole Catholic world have presented to the Sovereign Pontiff their own petitions and those of the faithful committed to their charge paring that he would deign to constitute St Joseph Patron of the Church. And this time their prayer and desire were renewed by them even more earnestly at the Sacred Ecuenical Council of the Vatican.
Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church.
He has also ordered that his feast on March 19th be henceforth celebrated as a double of the first class without any Octave. However, because of Lent, he arranged moreover that a declaration this effect be promulgated through the present decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites on this day sacred to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, the most chaste Joseph’s Spouse. All things to the contrary notwithstanding.”
(transcribed by Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 10, 2021
THROUGH JOSEPH: what the Saints say about him
Joseph inspired many saints, and they showed what he meant to them. With his nature, he crept into their hearts. It was his natural characteristics of humility, hard work, and justice that make him such an appealing person. Joseph, as the head of the family of Nazareth, became the focus of all those who saw the importance of family life. Furthermore, Joseph was the one person who connected Jesus to the house of David, from where the Messiah came. The life of Jesus comes into perspective in the history of salvation through Joseph. He was a man of God, the husband of Mary and the father of Jesus. The Saints saw this, and they highlighted the man, Joseph, as they saw his role in their own lives.
Man of God: St John Henry Newman
“His was the title of father of the son of God, because he was the Spouse of Mary, ever Virgin. He was our Lord’s father, because Jesus ever yielded to him the obedience of a son. He was our Lord’s father, because to him were entrusted, and by him were faithfully fulfilled, the duties of a father, in protecting Him, giving Him a home, sustaining and rearing Him, and providing Him with a trade.”
Joseph, saint above the saints. St Gregory of Nanzianzen: “The Almighty has concentrated in St Joseph, as in a Sun of unrivalled lustre, the combined light and splendour of all the other saints.”
Holy Joseph: St John Henry Newman
“Holy Joseph”, because he “was sanctified even before he was born. “He is Holy Joseph, because his office of being spouse and protector of Mary, especially demanded sanctity. ” He is “Holy Joseph”, “because no other saint but he lived in such and so long intimacy and familiarity with the source of all holiness, Jesus, God incarnate, and Mary, the holiest of creatures.”
Admired by the angels: St Francis de Sales
“Truly, I doubt not that the angels, wondering and adoring, came thronging in countless multitudes to that poor workshop to admire the humility of him who guarded that dear and divine child, and laboured at his carpenter’s trade to support the son and the mother who were committed to his care.”
Mary and Joseph in union with God: St John Paul II
Whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth.”
Master of prayer and interior life: St Josemaria Escriva
“In human life, Joseph as Jesus’ teacher in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself to take better care of Jesus. Isn’t that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the Old Covenant comes to full fruition, as a master of interior life? Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with him. And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus. Therefore, never neglect devotion to him – Ite ad Ioseph: “Go to Joseph” – as Christian tradition applies the words of the Old Testament (Gen 41: 55).
St Teresa of Avila: “Whoever fails to find a Master to teach him how to pray, should choose this glorious Saint, and he will not go astray.”
Doing the ordinary things well: St Joseph Marello
“St Joseph did not do the extraordinary things, but rather by the constant practice of ordinary and common virtues, he attained that sanctity which elevates him above all the other saints.”
Praised for his hard work: Pope Leo XIII
“Joseph, royal blood, united by marriage to the greatest and holiest of women, reputed the father of the Son of God, passed his life in labour, and won by the toil of the artisan the needful support of his family.
The duties of a father: St Alphonso Liguori: “The growth of Jesus in wisdom and in stature, and in favour with God and man (Luke 2: 52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of St Joseph, who had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding Jesus, clothing, and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father.”
Guardian of the Church. St John Paul II:
“Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model.”
Deserving of our love: St Theresa of Avila
“Saint Joseph. One cannot love Jesus and Mary without loving the Holy Patriarch.
To love Mary, is to love Joseph: St Madeleine Sophie Barat. “A servant of Mary will have a tender devotion to St Joseph, and by his homage of respect and love, will endeavour to merit the protection of this great saint.”
Intercession of St Joseph: St Teresa of Avila
“Knowing by experience St Joseph’s astonishing influence with God, I would wish to persuade everyone to honour him with particular devotion, I have always seen those who honoured him in a special manner make progress in virtue, for this heavenly protector favours in a striking manner the spiritual advancement of souls who commend themselves to him.”
St Francis de Sales: “Nothing will be refused him, neither by Our Lady nor by his glorious Son.
What a great saint and example we have in Joseph. Who will, therefore, resist the encouragement to go to him, as Blessed Pius IX says: “Go to Joseph! Have recourse with special confidence to St Joseph, for his protection is most powerful, as he is the patron of the universal Church.”
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
September 02, 2021
Bible Month of September
Pharoah never knew what his words would mean when he said to the people, “Go to Joseph”. He referred to Joseph, the son of Jacob, who had been sold as a slave and carried off to Egypt. There he became influential because he could interpret the dreams of Pharoah. As his influence grew, he was put in charge of the economy. Then drought and famine struck the Egypt and the surrounding areas. However, this happened exactly as Joseph had predicted according to the dreams of Pharoah. Joseph made provision for this time and had large amounts of grain stored. People came from near and far to Egypt, including his ageing father and brothers. In a way only possible to God, it all fitted in a plan that Joseph had to be in Egypt to save His people.
“Go to Joseph!” This is Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, the husband of Mary and father of Jesus. At a critical time, when Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit, the angel was sent to go to Joseph. A rescue of a different kind was needed. God needed a trustworthy man to take care of Mary in her condition to protect her and her Child. According to the law of the time, she could easily have been stoned to death. This was the moment for an upright man who would take care of her without interfering with God’s plan He had for Mary. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to ask him to take care of Mary and the Child. We are struck by the courage and bravery of Joseph. He became God’s plan of protection and care. He took the risk to see Mary with the eyes of the angel when she most needed protection.
Joseph stands on the threshold of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah. Via Joseph, Jesus was connected to the history of his people. Even more than that, he became connected to the house of David, from where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. The ancestors of Joseph became the family tree of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew counts the ancestors as far back as Abraham, “our father in faith”, spanning the centuries to the Babylonian exile, and from the Babylonian exile to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy. It is not just history; it is history of salvation as God worked it out. All the lines of this history converge at the right time in Joseph who was a descendant of King David. Because of Joseph, Jesus the Child born in a stable in Bethlehem, was humbly venerated by the three kings from the East as the King whom they had found. They came to pay him homage. Through the obedient cooperation of Joseph, God’s plan to bring to affect the final stage of His plan of salvation could fall into place. People who lived in bondage of slavery due to sin could be rescued because the angel was mandated to “go to Joseph”.
Their hunger was for God to come to their rescue, for Emmanuel as prophesied by Isaiah. Joseph ensured that Emmanuel, God-with-us, was according to the prophecies. He is the point, in which all God’s attempts to save His people and bind them into an eternal covenant converged.
God, by choosing Joseph, could finally untie the knots, which He found prevented Him from putting His plan into place: the knots of disobedience (as in the case of Adam and Eve), idolatry, rejection, destructive behaviour, injustice, disloyalty, lack of faith and trust, and hypocrisy. All of these involved directly their relationship with God Who repeatedly and in many different ways attempted to lure them back into a covenant of love and loyalty. He wanted to be “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. Joseph was the perfect match for God. His faith and courage resembled that of Abraham. Such is his position in the history of salvation that the Gospel of Luke traces him back all the way to Adam, “the son of God” (Luke 3), in paradise.
Joseph is mostly portrayed as a man with the carpenter’s square and the lily. He was a man of work who gave a home to his family and provided for them. As a man of purity, it meant that there was nothing that could separate him from his total dedication to Mary and Jesus. There was nothing that could disturb his heart and will to be a servant of God. As the protector of the Holy Family, he becomes an example of the Church, who like Joseph “watches over the mysteries of salvation”.
Go to Joseph. That is what we want to do in September, which is Bible Month with a text for each day, which will help us to grasp the significance of this humble, just and loyal man in the life of Mary and Jesus. In doing so, we will be walking in the footsteps of God from the beginning to the birth of His Son. And Joseph, known for his obedience (Matth 2: 14.21), his justice (Matth 1: 19) and peace (Lk 2: 4-5), is our guide.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 27th 2021
SAINTS OF GOD, COME TO OUR AID
The month of August reads like a Who’ who in the history of the Church. It spans the time of the New Testament with saints like St Gamaliel and the Apostle St Bartholomew. We find saints from the Early Church like St Lawrence, saints from the Church Fathers like St Augustine, St Monica and Alipius are saints later like St Abel. And after, in the early Middle Ages, there are St Stephen of Hungary, St King Louis of France of the Crusades and St Albert from Sicily. For the eleventh century, the saint that stands head and shoulders above the others was St Bernard of Clairvaux, simply called the man of the century. From there we move to the troublesome years of King Henry VIII and the English Martyrs like Blessed Richard Bere. The seventeenth century refers us with Blessed Caspar and Mary Vaz to Japan, both martyrs, and to France with the great reformer and founder of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, St John Eudes; then to Africa (Madagascar to be precise) with Blessed Victoria in the nineteenth century and St Rose of Lima from Peru. And add to them the great priest St John Vianney in France. The twentieth century has its own crown of martyrs in African Blessed Caspar of Congo, St Maximilian Kolbe of Poland and St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (also known as Edith Stein). Then there is the saintly pope Pius X.
Every age “produced” its own saints. But the month of August, with the Assumption of Mary and Mary’s Crowning, is the one month that stands out above the others. And that cannot be coincidence. There is a message for us. Who are these saints? Every saint is God’s answer to a particular need of our time and the Church. The answer is not in theory, but in practice. It is the answer in person. The circumstances range from Christians being persecuted, or the Church seeking for a new way of life through renewal. There are saints who reflect the social care of the Church. Knowing more about them, is to make ourselves familiar with the Church itself in its best form – a caring, healing, evangelising and suffering Church, which is the manifestation of the life of Jesus Christ in every age. These saints are the women and men who took care of social needs or who stood up for the truth as proclaimed by the Church. In August we find the saints in every continent. It is particularly pleasant to see the saints of Africa included.
See the saint, and you see the Church in a particular time. But the saints transcend the immediate circumstances of their own lives to become examples of following Christ for all times. They show us the relevance of Christ for our time, and reflect his image then, now and in the future. And because they reveal Christ, they remain relevant. Every saint uncovers the life of Jesus Christ in a very particular way – Christ crucified, Christ caring, Christ teaching, Christ praying, Christ leading, Christ suffering, Christ risen.
Reading the biographies of the saints (hagiography) is most inspirational and a must for everyone who wants to see the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the history of Christianity. It will also motivate us to take an interest in them and the diversity of expressions of the life of Jesus Christ in every age. That is to say, they are Christus redivivus, Christ re-lived, or Christus Renatus (Christ re-born). Another way of saying it, alter Christus, the other Christ. Their lives are no different from ours, and the Holy Spirit is the same. It can accomplish the same that turned women and men into complete followers of Jesus Christ.
Through baptism we receive the Holy Spirit to embark on a course of holiness. One thing we abundantly realise: either aspire to be holy, or you will not be a Christian at all. There is no middle road. Compromise is to embrace average, and average commitment spirals downwards to disinterest, half measures and apathy. The interest in holiness lends credibility to the conviction that Jesus Christ is relevant to our lives, and to the presence of the living God in our lives. God speaks today, loud and clear, in the same way that He spoke in the time of the patriarchs, judges and prophets of old. He is active today as He was in the Early Church. He is the same God Whose love raised Jesus from the dead.
But Jesus Christ must be heard, seen and touched. And that happens in his followers and the community of the Church, his Body. They are the “fifth Gospel”, read and seen in real life. Where is God’s answer to the needs of our time? You and me! What is the need of our time? It is the heresy that “God is dead”. There is a noise drowning the voice of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to carve out of our lives within our life circumstances the new face of Jesus Christ that is today’s saint. It is the birth of the saint for our time: The everyday, “workday saint”(Joseph Kentenich). Touch base with Jesus Christ in your own life. Know that your Redeemer lives. Be a blessing to others. Do whatever you want, as though Jesus was doing it. The life of the Christian takes place at the coal face in everyday life where Jesus must be known.
Our saints in heaven continue their mission for us. They are an inspiring source of God dwelling with us. They are with us with their praise and prayers before the throne of God. To them we pray with the words of the funeral liturgy: Saints of God, come to our aid. Angels of the Lord, make haste to help us.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 19th 2021
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY INTO HEAVEN, PATRONESS OF SOUTH AFRICA.
This solemnity gains its significance due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Mary is the sign God has given His people in all times as a sign of hope and mercy. More than ever, we need her intercession and prayers. Christians, from early years, turned to Mary for help. That is where we find ourselves. She encourages us to remain hopeful and charitable.
One of the strong facets of Catholic life has always been charity. A whole array of groups, sodalities and organisations remains permanently involved in helping needy people in the name of the Church. On the broader level, there are many collections, such as the Lenten and Advent Appeal, through which the Church raises funds to follow Christ’s mandate to evangelise, educate and feed the poor. Charity work is the very sign that Christ’s preference for the poor has never lost any of its relevance and does reflect in the life of the Church.
In such an important time of our history, it is essential that we don’t lose focus of the crucial aspect of charity. Biblically speaking, our celebrations are acceptable and pleasing to God when they are first and foremost reflected in the care for the needy. Otherwise, it could go with us as in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, where the temple offerings are rejected by God, because there is no justice and no care for the widows, orphans and strangers. (Isaiah 1: 1-23) In other words, liturgical celebrations can be self-centred and not inclusive of others who are less fortunate. These celebrations are in danger of being beautiful and edifying, but they reflect more on ourselves than God. God-pleasing liturgy, God-pleasing celebrations of Holy Mass, have God’s approval when the celebrating community includes the celebration of social care, which is through charity. Liturgy, our religious celebrations, must show God’s care for others. Only then are they God-centred and God-pleasing.
Charity has many names and faces. What do we want to do as Good Shepherd Catholic Church? For a start, we want to highlight the feast day of Mary, our Mother who is the patron saint of South Africa. Assumed body and soul into heaven, she has at heart our cares and concerns. This feast day we want to honour her by the way we show our interest in charity as outreach to the poor.
Charity is physical. We must look after people in kind. They must get food on the table and buy electricity. May I encourage our parishioners to continue contributing so that we can reach out to others who have serious needs. It can be emotional. Maybe, this is the part that is being neglected most of the time. People need so much emotional support. Then there is the spiritual care. It is very hard for the sick person and their relatives to be without priestly ministry. Priests should be allowed to minister to the sick more freely. These are special times that they are not prepared for. They need special training and equipment to visit the sick, even in hospital, and learn how to serve the sick with the cooperation of the medical staff.
Important is that we remember that charity is one of the core functions of the Church in general, and of the parish in a particular sense. Every one of us is called upon to reach out to someone in need. In this way, Jesus’ love for the poor continues through the members of the Church.
Let us honour our Mother, Queen of heaven, Patroness of our country.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
August 13, 2021
Letter to my grandfather
Dear grandpaAs I have only known you of all my grandparents, I am addressing this letter to you. Unfortunately, all my other grandparents had passed on well before I was even born. Looking back now, you were not even that old when we first met. I still remember as if it was just the other day when you came to live with us. You already had a reputation of a very strict person. However, I never got to know that side of you. It appeared that you had mellowed a lot with age, and I got to see the soft side of you. You were so quiet that I often wondered if you could talk. You would sit for long hours on a little bench in front of the house, just staring. There was something mysterious about you. Yes, there were times that you did talk about your life, but it only made you more mysterious to me. I stood in awe of the things you had to say. You worked in the mines in Johannesburg, and many of the leads about your life seemed to come together in the city of gold. There was a certain brother, Hannes, who lived and worked there. But, also he was more a mystery than a real person to me. Sometimes I got the impression that you grew up in the then Orange Free State or even Basutoland as Lesotho was called then. All hints you gave us, which really led nowhere. You often spoke at great length about your time in Port Nolloth. That must have been the time when you got to work for Ovenstone. But I am getting ahead of myself. I clearly remember that you mentioned that you were the carriage driver for General Hertzog. But again, more than that we could not get out of you. It is just about impossible to follow your leads. And as it was in those days, children were not allowed to ask questions or probe just a little bit. What did it matter, anyway? There you were, day by day being part of our lives. The only times when you became really talkative and even jovial were the weekends. That was your time to take a dop. And you enjoyed it. However, even then you had your spells of melancholy. You would sing a song, no it was just a one-liner, “My heart is full of sorrows”. Your voice was sad, and you were not a great singer, anyway. Whatever it was that you drank, it did not enhance your musical skills. I cannot remember that I ever saw or heard you pray. But I sensed that you were a very devout person in your own way. I cannot even remember that you ever went to Church with us. It seems that the Catholic fervour of your son (my father) was instilled by his mother (your wife, Lilian). Yet, stories abounded of your generosity to the priests and nuns in Athlone when you worked for Ovenstone in Cape Town. You were a driver and brought them fish every week. You were a convert to the Catholic faith, primarily due to your very pious wife. It was alleged that you were short-tempered and not shy to fight, even with men much bigger than you.
How we all longed to know more about you and your family background. All of the information went with you into the grave. It seemed that not even your own children knew much about you. It did impress me that you could speak Xhosa and Sesotho. But again, where did you learn it? Once I visited a cousin of my mom who pulled a photo of you from the top of the wardrobe. She claimed it was you, wearing a red fez and that your name was Samsodien. Just more riddles.
In the end, dear grampa (for that is what we called you), what does it matter? The main thing is that I had you for quite a few years. I know that you loved me; in fact, my siblings claimed that I was your favourite. It is true that you gave me the nickname “perrekant” (priest), though you very sparingly used it. When we had visitors and had to share beds and rooms, I had to sleep in your room in your big bed. Until deep into the night you were drawing your pipe.
So, one day when we meet in the next world some pieces of the puzzle that your life is will be put together. For now, I just want to say thank you for all the sweets, the pocket money and the long walks on the beach with the dogs at the crack of dawn.
I owe you a visit in the cemetery to have a good yarn with you. I am not sure if I will learn anything new about you. The memories suffice to form a profile of you – deep in thought, quiet, pleasant, peaceful, patriarchal, slightly superstitious.
Thank you, grampa.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 22, 2021
GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY - their spiritual health in lockdown
So much thought is being given to the physical and mental health during the Coronavirus pandemic. And that is good. Too little thought is being given to the actual spiritual health of people. If that were the case, priests would be essential workers and frontline carers. My experience, albeit not so extensive as that of those working in the domain of physical health, tells me that the spiritual aspect is highly underrated, even disregarded. It does, however, surface in many ways. People want to go to Confession, they want to baptize their newly born babies, they want to get married and they want to attend Church on a Sunday. On the one hand, they know that they need the Church to dispense the grace of God in significant moments of their life such as birth and marriage. And then, of course, there is death. The lockdown has challenged our faith in a very serious manner It is difficult to see God’s hand in this terrifying time. There are others who are quick to point out that we have entered doomsday scenarios. There are even those who transmit messages from persons in heaven or who are visionaries. Some see this time as a call to repentance and punishment for humanity that has strayed far away from God. Be that as it may, it just highlights the fact that there is a vacuum that must be addressed. The elderly are already in the twilight of their lives. One can only imagine what the conspiracy theories and end of world “prophecies” are doing to damage their psyche and spiritual health.
The array of spiritual needs is as many as the emotional and mental needs. They all have a spiritual spin-off. This is in particular true in the case of the elderly. Their spiritual interests have often grown over the years and their mental health is closely tied up with the well-being of their families. Those who have a tendency to worry, just worry even more. Those who are anxious, are even more anxious. Those who are terrified of dying, are just more anxious. They need the comforting presence of the Church and the Sacraments. They are calling for the listening ear of the spiritual leader who is their priest. They want to know through the Church that God is present in our chaotic and turbulent times. They need the Church to help them make sense of what is going on around them and in their life. A priestly person is worth the world to any of our elderly parishioners. The topics range from the mundane to some very personal and existential ones. Time is never wasted on them.
Elderly persons have a tendency to take certain matters more seriously, particularly when it comes to their families. They have taken a keen interest in their children (whether married or not) and their grandchildren. Covid-19 poses a real threat to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. They are only too aware of the fact that their bodies will never have the same capacity to combat a Covid-19 attack as when they were a few years younger. Covid-19 exposed their vulnerability and made them even more uncertain and insecure. Some forms of incapacitation arise with age. The memory is not what it used to be, and the hearing is far from its former sharpness. The eyes need the assistance of spectacles. Other physical deficiencies arise, such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, the likeliness of different forms of cancer and heart disease. Given all of the above, more elderly people die from loneliness than people who die from an addiction.
All of us need the spiritual comfort and nurturing care of the Church. Even more so the elderly because they experience in an existential way the insecurity and uncertainty of life. It is important to help them talk about these experiences. Where possible, those who care for them, must alert their local priest or let them contact their priest. Lockdown had some very strange effects on people. Most have become more personal, more emotional, more caring and more spiritual. However, these important sources of strength have also become sources of survival. Especially the elderly person has had to learn how to cope alone. But it can also take a very heavy toll. It is not uncommon to hear an elderly person speak of seeing and hearing strange things in their homes. While I am not suggestion for a moment that they are losing their mental capacity, it is a matter that must be taken seriously. Living alone without any or much meaningful distraction can do strange things to the mind. Quite a few have even had to give up the comfort of their own home, to start all over in an old age home facility or in the home of family members, such as children. In that case, they have had to sacrifice their much-cherished personal freedom.
What can we do? Learn to understand them. There is nothing they experience, which you and I cannot relate to. Especially, everyone knows what fear and sickness mean. Become caring of elderly persons and those who are related to you, especially your grandparents. Be present to them. Bolster their trust in you. Be alert to what they say and do. Be their contact to God and pray with them. Make the contact for them with the local Church. Enable them to follow Church services on the internet or TV. Above all, pray with them. The human presence in prayer is invaluable. Show them how important their prayers are for you, your family and the country.
The quality of personal and social life is measured by the way we care for our most vulnerable citizens. They are the elderly and the children. Right now, let us ensure that our elderly are in God’s channels of grace.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 16, 2021
GRANDPARENTS AND THE ELDERLY - please handle with care
Who hasn’t seen it written on a box with the red sign of a wine glass: fragile, handle with care? I can’t think of a more apt description of attitude and behaviour towards our grandparents and elderly. Everything in mind and body tells them that their powers of concentration, physical fitness and independence are waning. This can even manifest itself in severe forms only too familiar to us. In everything, there is a sense of fragility around them. Needless to say, there are the robust ones but even they can’t bend so fast anymore, they can’t run as quickly, and they, too, feel the aches and pains of joints.
What images come to mind when I meditate on the lives of our elderly and grandparents? Of course, it all depends on how we experienced them. But allow me to generalise. There is the image of the anchor. Steadfast, tested by the storms of life, consistent, dependable. There is the image of the gold digger who, in the old-fashioned way, goes down to the river with his sieve. Sifting through the stones, he looks for the gold nuggets. The life of an elderly person must be carefully and knowingly mined to find the gold nuggets that make them so special and precious. Then there is the image of the oyster and the pearl. The inner organs of the shell are very soft and sensitive. They are protected on the inside of the two shells by a mantle. Sometimes, an irritant like a grain of sand comes between the shell and the mantle. The oyster reacts and secrets a liquid around the grain of sand to isolate it. Gradually, the liquid becomes hard and forms the iridescent body known as the pearl. The heart of an elderly person is such an oyster – full of pain and suffering. Somehow, they manage to become pearls in their hearts as they have learnt not to abandon or deny the pain, but to shape them into pearls.
The life story of an elderly person is a source that needs to be discovered because it encompasses so many experiences. We must approach them with an open heart that is willing to listen and learn. Very often, it is not necessary to talk too much. It is just a matter of giving time for reflection. We must not think that we should embellish or deny. Some of the memories will require of us to forgive because they are still hurting, even if the elderly person is no longer among us. However, such an exercise makes us more considerate, more compassionate, and in fact, more realistic towards life. No person is perfect, and the life of an elderly teaches us to live with imperfection. By the way, our turn will come one day!
There are some do’s and don’ts when dealing and living with the elderly.
- A person who by virtue of age is getting ready to meet God is very special. Imagine, you have the opportunity to be with such a person!
- Keep them in touch with the Church. Don’t wait until they die to receive the Sacraments.
- Pray with them.
- Never make them feel inadequate. They know it. Never make them feel stupid or inferior.
- Be patient. Patience is to be and live in their time. Frequently, they need more time to do things. In my time, everything must go faster. In their time, it is different.
- Allow them access to the grandchildren. It gives them so much joy, so why not let them see the grandchildren as often as possible. Grandchildren equally enjoy the company of the grandparents or an elderly aunt or uncle.
- Gather the family around them for special occasions such as birthdays.
- Fear can be a real factor in their lives. Your presence reassures them. Make them feel cared for.
- Praise them! Don’t leave it for the eulogy at their funeral.
- Thank them. In this way, you show them appreciation.
- Forgive them as often as is needed.
- Spend time with them. Make time with them special.
- They remind you that life is finite. Understand their fear of dying through kindness and gentleness.
- Show affection! They don’t want or need material things. However, they do want your heart.
- Learn the art of conversation with them. Talk! Listen.
- Don’t burden them with your problems.
- Know their language of love. In other words, learn what makes them feel happy, special and unique. And do it.
- Find time for the gold nuggets and the pearls. Reflection and conversation go a long way towards finding them.
- If they are short-tempered, forgetful or feel down, do all of the above anyway. And always remember, they are fragile. Handle them with care!
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig) July 09, 2021
JULY: the month of the elderly and grandparents
Pope Francis declared July 25 the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. It coincides, of course, with the feastday of St Joachim and St Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. We have no information about them, yet there is a deep devotion since early years to this elderly couple. More common is the devotion to Anne, Mary and Jesus as a group, particularly in the eastern part of Germany and neighbouring countries. The interest in Jesus and Mary naturally evoked the interest to go further back, especially in the Middle Ages when more attention was given to the human nature of Jesus.
Pope Francis has a very fine sense and touch to highlight grandparents and elderly persons. The life of an elderly person is very often overlooked. Yet such a person reflects tremendous diversity. Grandparents enjoy being close to their grandchildren to experience them. There is nothing more pleasurable for a grandparent than to hold in their arms the child of the next generation. Quite frequently, grandparents are being lumped together as old and beyond their expiry date, “old” being synonymous with “not much of use” anymore. However, life teaches a different reality. Most of the times grandparents double up as parents again to mind their grandchildren while their own children go to work, often interchanging between being primary carers and secondary carers. While they appreciate their grandchildren, it is a daunting task thrust upon them, when they have to actively start parenting all over again. Nevertheless, most grandparents would do their utmost to secure constant contact with their little ones.
Grandparents are often unique role models. Many persons tell stories of how their grandparents featured prominently in their lives. They acted as inspiration and encouragement. They truly are “grand” parents. Their life experience stands them in good stead. They spend time with their families and instill values of family life and togetherness. They become multi-facetted superheroes, featuring as play mates, cooks, taxi drivers, tutors, after school carers, money lenders (!) and maintenance workers. They are the link back to the past, and there is nothing better than a good story-telling grandparent, even though some stories are just too good to believe! But who would dare challenge them!
Sadly, there are elderly persons who struggle in their old age. Limitations and boundaries are far more obvious. The body cannot perform the same way; forgetfulness becomes more prevalent; illnesses related to age increase. Loneliness is a common lamentation one hears from them. Grandparents must even assume financial responsibility in many cases. Very often neglected by their children or having to carry the burden of helping them, they must share their meagre income, pension or SASSA grant. It is deplorable to see the suffering of the elderly when they should be sitting back to enjoy the last years of their lives. Instead, they must bear the brunt of a grown-up child who leans on them for emotional and financial support. Some of them cannot afford the luxury of retirement and remain working for as long as possible. The days of the core family of three generations under one roof are numbered and very often not realistic. Times and life circumstances have changed. Grandparents, if they can, prefer to be self-reliant and on their own rather than to live with their children. It doesn’t make matters easier when we consider that they are in the twilight of their lives. Elderly friends and family members die, which only deepens the sense of advancing towards their own end – never a comforting thought. Old age leaves its mark on their health. The body just cannot do the same and different forms of sickness related to old age can be a painful experience.
The life of a grandparent with all its knots and twists is very interesting. Grandparents must be encouraged to tell their tales. A life spanning more than sixty years is bound to be full of stories of fun, adventure, risks, failure, guts, love, forgiveness, pain and joy. We must get to know the stories of these heroes of our lives. They must be encouraged to tell these stories. My own grandfather wrapped his past in a cloud of mystery. He never spoke about himself, and we regret that he never did. When he did mention something, his life appeared even more mysterious. My mother and father, on the other hand, were very close to their grandchildren and especially my father was a great storyteller.
Though the feastday of Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus, falls on July 26 (Monday), the day of grandparents and elderly will be celebrated on Sunday, July 25. I encourage everyone to make this day very special. We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. So why not Grandparents’ Day? Grandparents are indispensable to our lives and society. For once, we should be making a fuss of them. One can only hope that this day will become a permanent feature in our Church calendar. The elderly are included so that we can show our appreciation.
Though superheroes they are vulnerable. Some manage to remain creative by joining social or Church groups. The able-bodied ones can pursue their hobbies. However, age takes its toll on their mental, physical and emotional health. Illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s deprive them of mobility, freedom, independence and dignity. Old age can be very painful. Our elderly deserve proper care, patience, tolerance and loads of love. The less they can do for themselves, the more dependent they become, which is never a pleasant experience for them. They need the closeness of their families rather than the distance of a nursing home. And even when in a home, they must remain part of the family.
Happy is the person who can ignite their torch for the future from the fire of grandparents and the elderly. God bless them.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
July 01, 2021
HOLY MASS: In Jesus we hope
Once I have read the saying, “If a man has no hope, he dies.” It has always fascinated me and upon testing it in many life situations, both of my own and of others, I must agree. Not that I have been brought to the brink of such despair, but it is easy to grasp its wisdom. This became totally plausible when I read the book of the Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl was in the concentration camp in Auschwitz, exposed to the harshest of conditions and the severest brutality. He goes on to say that those inmates who had hope, survived. Those who lost hope, inevitably died. The power of hope is such that it can become the energy that keeps people going in the face of the most trying conditions. Hope means that a choice is still possible. It is the choice to assume an attitude in the face of any circumstances that life throws at us. That freedom to choose, according to Frankl, no one can take away.
We are going through extreme times since lockdown became effective last year. Yet, this time around there is a different ring in the voices I hear – there is fear. I have so often in past days heard the expression “it is scary” as the news of the death of loved ones pour in. We know that we can control the spread of the infections of Covid-19 but that is possible only if repeatedly we make the choice of attitude and responsibility. It is the responsibility to enable myself and others to remain safe. Even then, no one knows who will be infected, and when and how. That uncertainty has bred so much fear.
As that fear grows around us, we must act swiftly to gain control of ourselves. Fear is deadly. Still, we can make a choice. It is the choice to see ourselves in a different way. What is this choice? It is the vision of seeing ourselves in a new way. Or as Victor Hugo puts it, “Word which the finger of God has written on the brow of every man – hope.” In other words, hope is simply part and parcel of the very divine energy that is pumping through our body. To snuff this energy out, is to extinguish the light of hope. It is to succumb to despair.
In a collective way the closeness of death raised the questions about the vulnerability of life and the future of life after death. Both questions have become more and more like a massively overpowering force that knocks people flat. This is particularly visible at funerals. When the thread of faith is thin or missing, the sense of hopelessness is overwhelming.
As Christians, we celebrate Sunday and Sunday Eucharist. This is our time of hope and the renewal of our hope. The presence of God is reassuring us that we may trust in Him. Where He is, there is hope. This was the experience of the Israelite people in the Old Testament. Even in the most adverse circumstances and dangers, God has shown Himself as the God of rescue. Our trust in God rests upon these experiences that are so richly documented in Scripture. That hope in the Old Testament, that has become the hope in the coming Messiah, is fulfilled in Jesus, the beloved Son of God. As long as Jesus loved, there was hope. And through his Crucifixion when he died for us, we know that his love never ends. As long as we have faith in him, we have love and hope. That conviction allows us to say with 1 Cor 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) is the commemoration of the hope Jesus gave us from the Last Supper with his disciples in the Upper Room. If we do that every time in memory of him, he is in our presence. If we do what he has done when he washed the feet of his disciples, we find service as the meaning in life. We celebrate in Holy Mass the victory of love, which becomes for us the responsibility to be and do likewise. The Resurrection of Jesus is at the core of Holy Mass. Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too.”(1 Corinthians 15:17). The followers of Jesus celebrated the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup because Jesus had risen from the dead. In Holy Mass we celebrate our hope in a future life and the second coming of Christ. We apply ourselves with renewed vigour to this life because we have hope in life after death. The words of the German poet, Wolfgang Goethe, underpin this thought when he asserts, “Those who have no hope for a future life are already dead for the present one.” In other words, hope in the life hereafter commemorated and celebrated in Holy Mass makes us fit to live. Holy Mass releases us with a vision that empowers us to live in hope. It is our certainty in faith that we will take part in the eternal kingdom of God. And in view of the hardships of this present life it means with Revelations 21: 4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” It is the great vision of our encounter with God, as Paul says, “Now all we can see of God is like a cloudy picture in a mirror. Later we will see him face to face.” (1 Cor 13: 12)
Such hope demands that we live as “servants of God” (1 Peter 2: 16). In discipleship with Jesus, we can give an account of our hope, as 1 Peter 3: 15 instructs us: “Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply.” The reason for our hope is love. Or in the words of Viktor Frankl: I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.
Sometimes that is all we have – hope. When the odds are stacked against us, we may still hope in the strength of the present Lord for whom nothing is impossible. Jesus’ parting message to his disciples was, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and have faith in me.” (John 14: 1) Where Jesus is there is love. And where love is, there is hope. In the words of St Augustine: There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither hope nor love without
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
June 23, 2021
THE EUCHARIST IN THE CONTEXT OF THE FAMILY MEAL
Jesus arranged to celebrate the Passover meal with his disciples. It was a most unforgettable experience for them, as they later understood what their Master had done. They had a meal with Jesus, which became later known as the Last Supper. It was ritually connected to the slaughtering of the lambs to commemorate the passage from bondage to freedom. The element of sacrifice weighs heavily on the Last Supper as Jesus took bread, blessed it and said, “This is my body.” Having blessed the cup and shared it among his disciples, he said, “This is my blood”. Then he spoke those words that commit us to this day: “Do this in memory of me.”
However, it must not go unnoticed that Jesus did this in the context of a meal, for that is what the Passover was. How can this meal continue to live in our families? Let us consider for a moment what is important as an expression of family life. The first thing that comes to mind is the times when the family comes together to share a meal. From my own experience it is always a special time. It is so much different from everyone coming at their own time to eat and then disappear into their own room. The family meal is so central to the experience of what family life is about. There is that togetherness, the time to listen to each other, for talking (even arguing), the time to take notice of each other. Very often what happens at the table is a good gauge to assess the quality of family life. I would venture further and suggest that if a family is losing touch of each other, the best way to recover is to go back to the family table. And if things go wrong between the generations? Find out what is happening at the family table. It is and should be a moment when the family has that appointment with itself, away from any interference by cell phones, radio and television. If it is true that a family that prays together, stays together, it is equally true that a family that eats together stays together.
What does this have to do with the celebration of Holy Mass? In essence, it is the Eucharistic meal or the commemoration of the Last Supper. There is so much one can derive from it for our family life. There is Jesus, the head of his family of disciples to lead them in prayer and togetherness. Jesus gives them the example of sacrifice in his Body and Blood. He tells them to do “this in memory of me”. In the Gospel of John 13, Jesus puts on an apron and bends down to wash the feet of each of the disciples. What an astonishing gesture of humility and service. In fact, he goes on to say that they must follow his example and serve others in the same way. The first followers of Jesus understood the meaning of what he had done and met in their houses for the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup (1 Cor 11: 26).
Everything Jesus did was primed for the life of the family. We are what we are as people who come together to share a meal. Life, according to the celebration of Holy Mass, is meant to be a feast. Holy Mass is that feast where we receive the gift of Holy Communion. Sitting at the table of the Lord, which is the altar, we come together as his spiritual family to celebrate who we are as members of his Body, which is the Church. A feast needs careful preparation and the commitment to participate. Whoever is not willing to participate or is doing it begrudgingly, should rather stay away. They will just spoil the atmosphere or put a damper on it. We are who and what we are because we celebrate Holy Mass on Sunday. It takes time. We cannot rush through it. I am often dumbfounded by the question “Father, how long will it take”? And I think of Holy Mass I have celebrated, which took anything up to two hours and no one ever complained or even noticed the time. Celebrations with eagerness and participation are never long. A celebration like Holy Mass is the expression of life, the demonstration of identity, the confirmation of hope, the renewal of commitment to values, the renewed orientation to follow Jesus, and the commitment to care for each other. It is the celebration of salvation, in other words of the wholeness of life from birth to death.
And that is where can again touch base with the family meal. It is a moment of prayer, of thankfulness for the blessing of a roof over the head and food on the table, of being part of a family of love and care, and of living in solidarity with each other. The family meal is the noblest expression of family life. And it takes time. From Italy coming, there is the Slow Food Movement. It is trying to counter-act the meal as fast food. Eating fast food on a regular basis, disrupts family life. It reduces the meal to mere eating as a means of satisfying one’s hunger. There is no touch of communion with each other, of shared interests and experiences and of conversation. It is a far cry from the family meal as the moment of unity and togetherness. The Slow Food Movement wants us to see time as an important part of the family meal. It takes time, as all good and meaningful things do. It is an option for a healthy lifestyle because the food is cooked at home. This Movement started with the realisation that parents and children were drifting apart. The way we life our family life, in fact the way we have our meals can be an accurate reflection of the way we view and practice religion. In 1987 a movie called Babette’s Feast appeared. It showed two sisters in Denmark looking after the Church of their father. They were austere and demanded strictness of discipline. They were obsessed with pleasing an austere God and mistrusted any form of enjoyment, Babette, a refugee from Paris, was sent to work in their household. She conceived the idea of a feast, a well-planned family meal as an alternative. And what a difference and challenge it was to the whole Church! The meal implies joy, affection and care. This experience should reflect our image of God and our worship. God cannot be associated with gloom and misery. He is God of encouragement and fulfilment of life.
Like the Eucharist, family life includes pain and suffering, it knows everything about sacrifice. The family meal is a moment of shared pain and sacrifice, and of solidarity and strengthening. There is no better preparation for Holy Mass than the family that shares the meal. The connection between the table of the Lord and the table of the home is essential. The one effects the other, even if you live alone make it a festive moment. I remember a religious community who always reserves a place for an unexpected guest. In that guest, they say, Jesus comes to visit. Take the Eucharist as a festive occasion seriously by taking the family meal seriously.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
LORD TEACH US – IN HOLY MASS
In the Gospel of Luke, we have the verse “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11: 1). Jesus then proceeded to teach them the Our Father. We can shorten this request by taking the first part as everything that Jesus did with his disciples. He taught them. We take up the words of the disciples and say to Jesus, “Lord, teach us”. The legacy of Jesus is in the Upper Room with his disciples when he said after the breaking of bread and the blessing of the cup when he said, “Do this in memory of me.” (Mark 14: 22-25; Luke 22: 18-20; 1 Cor 11: 23-25) At the same time, it is the legacy of the washing of the feet when Jesus said, “I have given you an example.” The teacher leads by example: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” (John 13: 14-15) These actions encapsulate the entire teaching of Jesus, both in word and gesture. The Upper Room is the school of Jesus. So many of the words of Jesus are about teaching us to find a way of life that will lead to the kingdom of his Father. He teaches us to believe, hope and love, to sacrifice, serve and follow. The celebration of Holy Eucharist becomes the ritual and re-enactment of the life and teaching of Our Lord.
- During Holy Mass he teaches us how important it is to forgive. In many and varied ways, Jesus insists upon forgiveness. In the parable of the man who sought forgiveness but refused to forgive the other servant is harshly judged. If you don’t forgive but received forgiveness, you will be dealt with severely. (Matth 18: 21-35) The ultimate form of forgiveness is the mercy of the Father of the prodigal son (Luke 15). The Psalm says, “A repentant heart, o Lord, you will not spurn.” (51: 17) Right at the beginning of Holy Mass, almost at the entrance before we enter fully into worship, we seek God’s forgiveness. We know we must forgive because our heart deserves peace. We know we must ask for forgiveness because we want to live in peace with God and neighbour.
- The essence of Eucharist is what the word means:
“Thanksgiving”. Jesus teaches us to count our blessings. The celebration of Eucharist is our saying thank you to God for the sacrifice and love of Jesus, His Son. He, Jesus, gives us the access to the unbreakable covenant with the Father through him, the Son, in the Holy Spirit. A grateful heart has the memories of the blessings. Jesus was perturbed when of the ten lepers whom he cured, only one returned to say thank you (Lk 17: 12-19). And he was, to crown it, a Samaritan, not the nine Jews who were members of the faith community of Jesus.
- Ask and you will receive, Jesus taught us. We have so much to ask. Let us not be proud to ask. This happens in the Prayers of the Faithful. But also, we who are with so many needs, must ask, seek and knock. (Matth 7: 7-11) It is an act of humility and demonstration of dependence. In asking we proclaim trust in God the Father who knows what we want even before we can ask Him. It is Him of Whom Jesus says that He sees us more important than the birds and lilies on the field. He knows every hair on our head. Yet, like children, we must learn to ask. (Matth 6: 26-34)
- “Hear, o Israel” (Deut 6: 4-9) Moses said to the people in the great assembly in Deuteronomy. When we hear the readings, we are taught that so important lesson: listen. To listen implies silence and putting oneself aside to pay attention to what is being said. Jesus could go to someone whose voice he picked from all the loud voices in the crowd. We listen to the word of God because it teaches us the truths of salvation, it warns and cautions us, it encourages and motivates, it strengthens and brings hope. And, in the very same way, we resolve to listen to others. Listen not to reply but to understand.
- Jesus said, “I have come to serve, not to be served.” (Matth 20: 28) He served to the shedding the last drop of his blood. To his disciples he said, “You must be the servant of all.” For that reason, he washed their feet. Do this as a memorial of me, that includes serving the way he did. He served until he shed the last drop of his blood on the Cross. Serving with love brings Jesus to others. Serving without love is to be a slave, with no real inner commitment and passion. The celebration of Eucharist is the Passover Meal of Jesus, the Paschal Lamb who sets us free with his blood. To serve requires a new approach to life – it is to seek the gain of the other, not personal gain. It is to give until it hurts. It is to go the extra mile (Matth 5: 41) All that happens before our very eyes in the gifts of the altar, the Body and Blood of Christ.
- Our Eucharist is praise of God. Jesus came to glorify the Father, and the Father glorifies the Son. (John 17: 1-5) We lift up our hearts to praise the greatness and wonders of God. Learn to praise again. It brings the best out of others and shows our appreciation of them. Praise affirms, uplifts and inspires. Praise shows maturity to observe what is good around us, regardless of us. In praise, we enjoy the presence of God and of others.
- Sacrifice is at the core of the life of Jesus. “I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10: 10) He wants us to have the fulness of life, and is willing to give himself, like the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep (John 10). True commitment and love are the willingness to die for someone whom we love. Jesus did exactly that. He became the wheat grain that falls into the ground and dies, to sprout and give abundant fruit. (John 12: 24) We find life hard and relentless. We must sacrifice all the time. Sacrificing with Jesus is the key to saving others, just as his sacrifice saved us. The sooner we say yes to sacrifice, the better. It is part of life. And we see that on the altar.
- My peace be with you, Jesus teaches. The gift of the Risen Lord was “Peace be with you.” (John 20: 21) We are meant to be peacemakers, women and men who bring the peace of Jesus to others. When we wish each other peace during Holy Mass, it is the peace of Jesus we wish for the other.
- The Eucharist is to be at the table of the Lord. We cannot rush through this meal. It challenges us to slow down, to absorb what we are experiencing. We return to the roots of our life at the family table at home. To have a meal is the most human celebration of togetherness, unity and love.
When we attend Holy Mass, let us be mindful that we are sitting at the feet of the Teacher, in his school.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
June 9, 2021
THE GREAT MYSTERY OF THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, AND THE NITTY GRITTY
The Eucharist is the climax of all worship. All the other prayers and devotions merely extend our worship and elaborate it in different forms. St Thomas Aquinas was in such awe of the Body and Blood of Christ that he said: “O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness. Could anything be of more intrinsic value?” He goes on to say that no other sacrament has greater healing power. “Through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.” In this sacrament, we renew the “memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion”.
If only we could find again the tremendous love of the Body and Blood of Christ and regain the deep reverence that we once had for it. It is, in fact, the celebration of every Sunday, which we are highlighting on this feast day. Every celebration of Holy Mass is the moment of reliving the Last Supper, which Jesus celebrated with his disciples. He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and said, “This is my Body.” Likewise, he took the cup, blessed it and said, “This is my Blood”. And ever since, there has not been a more important, a more lavish meal than the Eucharist. Because, here on the altar of Christ, we bless bread to become his Body; we bless wine to become his Blood. There is nothing that can compare to it.
Now for the nitty-gritty. Because it is in the mastering of those teeny-weeny things that we safeguard and express the great Mystery
- So, what is the nitty-gritty? I am getting ready to meet our God. It begins with our preparation. Make a fuss of Sunday. In other words, remove the notion that what you are going to do is a duty. Let Sunday be an exciting day. Use your imagination to make the day special. Every feast as an event needs time to prepare. It is no different when it comes to the celebration of Holy Mass. For any feast we carefully choose what we are going to wear. We make sure that we are on time. (Coming late is an insult to the hosts) We go in the right mood to celebrate.
- The thorny issue of clothing. The Eucharist is described as a banquet. It is every time a feast. Consequently, it deserves the attention afforded to a feast. At every funeral I observe how well dressed the people are, most of them in black. There is a festive elegance and seriousness. The same goes for weddings where the very clothes radiate joy. Why is that not the case of every celebration of Holy Mass? We are used to proper attire for different functions. Surely, that should also be the case for Sunday Holy Mass! Attire, as clothes proper for the occasion, is not just a form of dressing. It has to do with our ability to grasp the significance and wonder of the mystery that we are celebrating. There are certain parts of the world where we would not even be allowed to enter the Church if our attire is deemed inappropriate. Every little custom and tradition help to enhance in our younger ones the sense of awe for Jesus Christ in the Body and Blood. In case of doubt, the advice is: Dress up rather than down.
- Make it personal. Get the family to draw a name. Each one then prays at Holy Mass for that name. It can also be one name for someone who is special due to birthday, anniversary, baptism, sickness, etc. As family or individual members, come to Holy Mass with a special intention. Let the children bring something like a drawing, a flower or light a candle at the shrine of Mary. Bring an offering of food for the poor or place a monetary offering in the poor box.
- Go through the readings at home before Holy Mass. They sound familiar when they are read. It is difficult to focus on three readings alike. Choose a verse from a reading that is special to you. Memorize it. Wait for that verse to be read.
- Decide before Holy Mass what moment is going to be “my special moment”. The rituals and texts of Holy Mass are so rich and compact that it is difficult to internalize every moment. It helps to focus on a moment, which, in turn, helps to focus on the entire celebration.
- When you arrive at Church, be friendly. Greet people. See if there is someone whom you can help in some way or another.
- Upon entering the Church, kneel or bow properly before entering the pew. Remember: we worship with our body.
- Silence is an important part of Holy Mass. Once you enter, observe silence. Say a prayer and wait for Holy Mass to start. Take in the atmosphere in the Church. See the people around you. They are there for the same reason as you. Look at the flowers, the statues, Jesus on the Cross. Soak in the atmosphere before Holy Mass.
- Our worship is a dialogue between the priest in the person of Christ and the people. Hence, the responses are crucially important. These must be done clearly and eagerly. Sing! The music is many people one of the highlights of Holy Mass. The choirs lead the singing; they don’t replace our singing. If there is joyful singing, we worship better and the whole celebration is more attractive.
- Listen to the sermon. Try to get one special thought that speaks to you. Share that thought with others afterwards.
- If you are going to receive Holy Communion, make sure your hands are clean. Your hands will become the throne to receive the King of Kings. Approach the Holy Communion with focus and concentration. Make sure that no particles remain on your hands afterwards or that any fall on the floor. It is very disturbing to give someone Holy Communion on the hand when it is full of telephone numbers. True, Jesus was born in a stable. But we have the privilege of warm water and soap. Clean hands to receive the King of Kings! It is a sign of respect for Him who is coming into my soul to occupy it on his throne. When I receive Holy Communion on the hand, the hands should reflect the status of Jesus in my life as I fold one hand over the other in such a way that they make a crown for Him. Extra caution must prevail to make sure that particles don’t fall on the ground. These particles are so precious that the Orthodox Church called them “margarites”, Greek for “pearls”.
- At the end of Holy Mass, don’t rush out. Remain until the final hymn is sung to the end. It is a sign of belonging to the community. We don’t celebrate as individuals.
- Once outside, be friendly. Greet.
- Holy Mass is a meal. Do something special at table at home. Let the breakfast or lunch connect back to it by mentioning it in the prayer before eating. The sign of peace is again very appropriate now in the family.
- So, what is the nitty-gritty? I am getting ready to meet our God. It begins with our preparation. Make a fuss of Sunday. In other words, remove the notion that what you are going to do is a duty. Let Sunday be an exciting day. Use your imagination to make the day special. Every feast as an event needs time to prepare. It is no different when it comes to the celebration of Holy Mass. For any feast we carefully choose what we are going to wear. We make sure that we are on time. (Coming late is an insult to the hosts) We go in the right mood to celebrate.
Don’t try all of the above at once. Choose and apply.
May the nitty gritty help us experience awe for the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. May they make every celebration a “wow experience”.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
LOVE IN ACTION - one Bread, one Body
During this lockdown we need a gentle reminder of our pastoral plan Love in Action. The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ takes us back to the Upper Room with the Last Supper. There Jesus demonstrated what Love in Action means as sharing, loving, and serving. And this happens every time when we participate in the celebration of Holy Mass. All Love in Action begins in Holy Mass and returns to it. Whenever we do Love in Action, we honour the words of Jesus: “Do this in memory of me.”
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) is a constant reminder of who we are, where we come from and where are going. We are the universal community as the whole Church. We celebrate our origin in the unique (one and only) salvation deed of the Father in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. This salvation deed becomes and remains effective in and through the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s Love in Action is Jesus Christ, His Son, the one and only High Priest, who surrendered to the Father to bring us salvation through the Holy Spirit. To say and practice Love in Action is to be in touch with the celebration of Holy Mass.
The celebration of Holy Mass is “eucharist” as our thanksgiving to the Father’s salvation for us. It is, at the same time, showing us what the world should become, namely gift and praise for the Creator, a universal community in the Body of Christ, a kingdom of justice, love and peace in the Holy Spirit. In other words, our pastoral project Love in Action is nothing but a common act of thanking God for our practical parish attempt to show in a small way what the Church and Christians at large are aspiring. We want to acknowledge God as the one Creator, live in a community called by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to work for the kingdom of God of truth, love, justice and peace.
The celebration of the Eucharist finds its origin in the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” (1 Corinthians 11: 24-25; Luke 22: 19). As such, it becomes the meal of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one cup, of the meal of the Lord and the Last Supper. Like the covenant people in Exodus who entered into the Covenant with God by eating the paschal lamb, so the new covenant people enter into their salvation by God, which was made possible by the redeeming deed of Christ on the Cross and his rising to the Father by the surrendering of the Spirit (John 19: 30) to the Father. Eucharist is not the bringing of an offering or sacrifice to God to please Him. Rather, we receive the fruit of the Cross as act of reconciliation of God. We are included in the selfless love of the Father for us, in His Son, through the Holy Spirit. We are also included by Christ in his obedient surrender to the Father. Through this celebration we become what we are: Church as communion (community) and we receive every time our mission to proclaim. There is only one sacrifice and Eucharist – that of Jesus Christ. The priest at Holy Mass does not bring a new sacrifice. He presides and shows that our salvation comes from Christ, the only Priest of the New Covenant (Letter to the Hebrews). Our Love in Action is in memory of Christ’s sacrifice, through whom we thank and praise the Father.
The gifts of bread and wine and our receiving of them symbolise also our unity in Christ Jesus. Whoever sits at the table of the Lord, becomes one with him and the whole communion of his Body, the Church. There is a sense of solidarity of the sisters and the brothers. In other words, it is here that we experience that the barriers and differences of men, women, different nationality and social status (Letter to the Galatians) no longer exist. In this regard, the celebration of Holy Mass is the constant reminder that we are one in the Father through the one sacrifice of Christ, in the one love of the Holy Spirit. Church, in this way, is the new people, far from discriminations on the grounds of outward appearances. Holy Mass is the celebration that we are on the way towards this unity in diversity and otherness. In our parish, we are journeying towards such unity, always stumbling and standing up to try again.
Holy Mass, as the source and culmination of the community and of the individual Christian, presupposes that they are already living the Eucharist and that their lives, hope and efforts are included in the celebration. The purpose struggles and pastoral efforts of our pastoral plan flow into the eucharistic celebration, which, in return strengthens and empowers them to go out and live in the world. The community becomes the communion with Christ, who binds all different forms of groups and organisations together into one.
When we view our programmes, which implement our pastoral plan “Love in Action”, we see that all of them must find their source and inspiration in the celebration of Holy Mass. Hospitality begins and returns to the table of the Lord; the house church finds its identity at Church and reflects the Church at home and in the suburb; healing takes place through forgiveness and reconciliation during Holy Mass and continues in daily life; and helping hands first experiences the charity of Christ, which, then, becomes practical in the outreach to those in need. In other words, the supreme act of Love in Action is the life, death and Resurrection of Christ as celebrated in Holy Mass. It is God’s gift to us.
In the celebration of Holy Mass, we find ourselves called, formed and sent to exercise “Love in Action”.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 28, 2021
Due for a new Pentecost with Covid-19
Sometimes it takes a long time to change old habits and develop new ones. It takes even longer for change when it comes to adopting new ideas. But then, suddenly something happens, which speeds up that process at breath-taking pace. Take, for example, the acute water shortage in the Western Cape just two years ago. There was the doomsday scenario of Cape Town running out of water. With the help of a massive awareness programme we changed the way we viewed water as a basic natural resource and complied with certain restrictions such as a two-minute shower. The success was tremendous and hopefully still has its mark on our awareness.
Why this long-winded introduction? The theme that is occupying us day and night all over the world is the Covid-19. Without going again into all the details of the effects, what really concerns me is an interpretation in faith. That, and only that, will ultimately satisfy us. Ideally, there has to be a kind of discernment that includes the widest range of believers to detect the movement of the Holy Spirit in their souls. That is where God speaks to us and His Church. Our liturgical feasts do centre our attention to be on a certain focus. Every feast is not just the cyclical repetition of an event in the history of salvation. In other words, it is not the same over and again. Rather, the feast occurs into our own time, against the backdrop of our personal, ecclesial and global circumstances. We commemorate and celebrate from the past to understand the present, to launch into the future. This, in fact, is the most exciting venture for our faith, because it will then always remain vibrant and relevant, believing in the God of life.
This time around it is Pentecost, that moment of the powerful descent of the Holy Spirit, significantly as fire. It is a moment of total transformation from fear to boldness, from anxiety to light-hearted joy, from muteness to eloquence, from puzzlement to understanding, from confusion to enlightenment, from apathy to excitement, from stagnation to creativity, from brokenness to healing. The devastating contrast was the Tower of Babel, symbol of confusion, decadence and ultimate fear. Pentecost is direct divine intervention. We experience the perversion of our Christian values, which are from within and outside. The battle to maintain our values is energy sapping, especially the value of an active faith in our families. Regrettably, we have become accustomed to a little bit of this and that when it comes to Church and Christ. We tend to celebrate average.
Covid-19 exposed us. It engulfed us into even more confusion and darkness, not just for the individual but for the global community. The conditions of lockdown eroded our normal parish community life, at times to a frustratingly low level. The spirit of minimalism (less is better) is easier than the spirit of maximalism, which tries in vain again and again to accomplish more, rather than less. It is the pitched battle between dull acceptance of the status quo and sacrifice to seek something more and different. On the information front, who dares to assert that they know the conclusive truth? There always seems to be another twist. Rather, truth appears to be a matter of choices: who do I believe is telling me the truth and what authority do I accredit with telling me the truth or, at least, enough for me to make up my own mind? The severe consequence of Covid-19 is death. Facing our mortality taught us the lesson that there is nothing permanent or eternal about ourselves and our own ventures. Everything has the mark of finality. And that awareness evokes fear and loss of purpose in life.
We and our time are ready for Pentecost – new Pentecost, new evangelisation. And that will largely depend on those who are willing to enter into a deeper, more personal and daring relationship with God as prerequisite for the Holy Spirit to do its work of total transformation in us. This will mean a more than average spirit of prayerfulness. The Holy Spirit, though in storm and fire, does its work in the silence of the soul. Prayer is the key to unravel God’s will and purpose for His Church. It is in prayer where the logic of God finds its way into our minds, which can be very different from our own wishes and plans. And by, that, I mean prayer that is contemplative, the prayer of the person who is in communion with God through the Holy Spirit. Next, we will need the spirit of sacrifice. Sacrifice is the reverse side of love. We know that the challenges are enormous. That doesn’t matter. That is just how things are today. Sacrifice is knowing that the Cross of Jesus is not spared those who follow him. And that awareness, too, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Working for the Gospel is hard work based on perseverance and consistency. Success is never guaranteed. What counts, though, is the certainty in faith of being in sync with God’s will for us. It is not even the size of the task that matters. Even the smallest of tasks, done for the greater glory of God, is a heroic act of faith. We need, next, the spirit of apostolate. In other words, of being and doing what the apostles did: becoming witnesses who live and work as though Christ is doing in us. No area of life can be excluded from the Gospel as the life-giving presence of Christ to erect the kingdom of truth, love and justice. Apostolate is the expression of solidarity with the Risen Lord in his attempt to bring the flock home to the Father. And that includes the fervour to see to the needs of those less privileged. Pentecost has the effect of wanting to care for others. Pentecost is to be immersed in the celebration of Eucharist. The Holy Spirit changes bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, where we become what we receive. Lastly, Pentecost is community. We need like-minded and like-believing people who are in communion with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit, to form a bond of love with one another. To believe in the Holy Spirit is to know that a new world is arising out of the ruins of an old one.
Today everything favours the acceleration of the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us be part of its new creation. There is so much depth in the simple prayer: Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 20, 2021
He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father: Jesus our constant
Our lives have had more zigzags during lockdown than I care to count. Just when we think we are getting out of the woods, there is something else. We are collectively holding our breath to see what is next. In all of this, there appears to be no constant. Covid-19 is a moving target, impossible to subdue. We continue to feel vulnerable. This experience is enhanced by the fact that obstacles are mounting as people attempt to come to grips with the boundaries enforced around them. Who doesn’t have a story to tell about uncertainty, insecurity and instability? And the end is not in sight. In fact, the horrific prospect of a third wave of infection is staring us in the face.
We are celebrating the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we look for ways of coping, let us not lose sight of the fact that lockdown is more than just the outward restrictions. It has a profound impact on our spiritual life if we are willing to seek for the underlying meaning of crisis. The life of Jesus is our most reliable constant. He touches us in different ways. For some, it is the experience of true love leading them to the altar to seal their commitment in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. For others, it is the birth of a child, signifying life that will continue. Yet for others, it was the experience of healing when death appeared to be imminent. For others, it was the experience of forgiveness. Some, and their numbers are increasing, recount the experience of death. Or that of loss of quality of life due to retrenchment. And let us not forget the tricksters who heartlessly exploit others for personal gain. It is sad to see a young family ending up on the street because they have placed their trust and money in someone to help them find accommodation. The life of Jesus is our constant: his homelessness, rejection, pain, emotional deprivation, suffering, loneliness and death. The other side of his life is equally evident: his feeding of people, welcoming of children, protecting of women, including of strangers and forgiveness of sinners.
Jesus is our constant, and that we can follow in his Ascension into heaven. Every moment of his life waited for this to happen - the return to the Father to sit at his right hand. He ascends into heaven not as an individual. He is the Son of God, the Good Shepherd, who leads us home where “there are many rooms in the Father’s house” (John 14: 2). He goes to the Father with each one of us and his body carries the signs of his agony and Crucifixion. He goes with our names inscribed in his heart. That is how we, too, ascend into heaven in, with and through Jesus Christ, and await his second coming to bring us all victoriously to the Father’s house. St Paul writes reassuringly in Philippians 3: 20: “But our homeland is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ”. Jesus Christ does not leave us alone here. “I shall not leave you as orphans; I will come to you in a little while.” (John 14: 18).
He is with us to the end of time when we will see the Father face to face (1 John 3:2) He sends us his Spirit, the Spirit of truth as his new presence with us to be free from anguish, fear and anxiety. As St Paul instructs us: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Jesus is our constant. Though he ascends to the Father, leaving his disciples behind, he remains with them. He weaves a bond between heaven and earth. The two remain permanently interwoven. There is a ladder from earth leading into heaven. Every moment that we live in Christ is the ascent on that ladder, wrung by wrung, until we reach our destination at the end. The constant is the power of love poured out into the universe, the planet, the galaxies, the solar system, the planets, the earth. There is nothing that can stop the stream of love that is gushing forth stronger than ever since the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is so unstoppable that nothing can separate us from it. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (…) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 35-38)
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 11, 2021
Mother’s Day, as we know it in South Africa, has its origin in the United States of America. A woman, by the name of Anne Jarvis, introduced it. She never intended it to be commercialised to the extent it had become. In most Catholic countries Mother’s Day was celebrated around a feast day of Mary, the Mother of God. This is, for example, still the case in Argentina, where mothers are celebrated on the third Sunday of October, which used to be the day of Mary, the Mother of God. This feast day has since been moved to January 1, but the Argentinians have left their Mother’s Day on the third Sunday of October. Similarly, in Belgium Mother’s Day used to be on the Assumption of Mary. Clearly, there has been a close connection in the Catholic Church between Mother’s Day and Mary.
Mother’s Day is rated among the most important days in our calendar. Any other occasion or celebration gives way to it. Such is the prominence it enjoys in our minds and feelings. It is a day of spontaneous joy and gratitude. We show our love and affection for our mothers, acknowledging the position they have in our lives. As it is with all celebrations of this kind, wounds can open as we consider people who lost their moms or who grew up without them or have negative experiences. Stories of people searching for their moms are very moving. On this day, we include all mothers, alive or dead. Our emotions for them are the same, whether they are with us or not.
The Church holds motherhood in highest regard. She shows this primarily by the way she honours Mary as Mother. Equally, the Church sees herself in the role of a mother, giving spiritual birth to children, teaching and nourishing them. A caring Church follows the example of Mary, Mother of the Church, to make sure that she never distances herself from being at the side of the underprivileged, the sick, the dying and people in need. Through the sacraments, the Church attends to the salvation of people in different circumstances and phases of their lives. Mary was the Mother God Himself chose for Jesus, His Son. He considered her the most perfect mom. He placed His full trust in her to care for the most precious treasure of his heart, which was His Child.
Mother’s Day evokes memories of our own mothers. Countless are the episodes and anecdotes of their loving, disciplining and tough presence. My mom was not one to wait for my father to come home for a good spank. The wet dish cloth was readily available and generously used. All I can remember was that she was never malicious. Unforgettable is the dish with the chocolate icing, which we licked clean. Or the jerseys knitted and the special dishes. She could even make me drink cod liver oil in Winter as if it was Oros. Or the sacrifice of working long hours to help support the family. She never seemed to stop giving. It is all these simple memories, strung together, that make up a beautiful mosaic of a loving face that is imprinted in my heart. And I think that I am speaking for most of us. All our mothers, therefore, deserve to be remembered today in a special way.
The Bible shows us the motherly tenderness of God. My favourite verses are from Ps 139, which speak of the refined love and gentleness of God. Just imagine:
“You have formed me in my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” Or: “Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me.” What can beat the following most touching relationship between God and me:
“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.” (Isaiah 49: 15-16)
Mary reflects to us, as she did to Jesus, the tenderness of God. For that reason, there is a tradition that says: “God could have made a more perfect Creation; but He could not have made a more perfect Mother for His Son.” We include Mary, the Mother of earth and heaven, in our Mother’s Day celebration.
Perhaps it is appropriate now also to mention a thought of Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato si” on the conservation of the planet: that the Earth is our mother. We pray for the careful loving treatment of Mother Earth who nourishes us.
To all mothers, happy and blessed Mother’s Day.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
May 07, 2021
The month of May sets a completely different tone for our prayer life. It is about Mary. T he tone is echoed by the past: Nothing is too much for Mary. We don’t mind going a bit overboard with our love for the Mother of Jesus. The reason, quite simply, is that she was destined by God to become the Mother of His Son. The changing moment in Mary’s life was when the Angel Gabriel appeared to her. She was to become the Mother of the Son of God! Unthinkable, unfathomable! Yet, there it is for us to read in the Gospel of Luke. Heaven held its breath as the young woman of Nazareth had all the freedom to give her reply. And she did, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to Your word.” That was the answer most pleasing to God Who had been struggling to find that answer since Adam and Eve in paradise, and afterwards. Mary’s mind and heart were set on the will of God. It was a moment of great triumph for the Father who sends His Son through the Holy Spirit. The Triune God acted into the life of the young woman of Nazareth. We have every reason to stand in awe of Mary’s faith, hope and love because she represents us in our feeble attempts to cooperate with God’s will. She made it possible for the Saviour to be born. All our devotion to her is nothing but the faint echo of God’s own way of seeing her. He immersed her into His plan, and she cooperated. She became the instrument for the Incarnation of the Son of God.
We find ourselves eager to express our love for Our Lady. This is all the more important during the lockdown that has been gnawing at our patience and deprived us of so many things we hold dear – the freedom of worship, movement and social interaction. Not to mention the loss so many have had to endure because of the death of loved ones or the erosion of their ability to fend for themselves through loss of income. It really is a time when we have every reason to cry out to the Mother of Jesus for her intercession. As at the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, we implore her to say those life-changing words to her Son again into our time of helplessness: “They have no wine”, and “Do, whatever he tells you.” She knows there is hope where Jesus is.
The devotion to Mary is in our Catholic “DNA”. It comes as second nature and spontaneously. We are in sync with the Church and its teachings and move with the Church’s rhythm during the year, following the feast days of Mary and special times dedicated to her. One such time is the month of May. We attempt to pray with Mary to God, we allow ourselves to be guided by her to the mysteries of the life of her Son. We call on her to intercede the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the experience of Pentecost. Following her example, we become disciples of Jesus.
Our favourite forms of devotion come to the fore, among them the Rosary as the most eminent. It is the time when we raise our hearts to Mary with the Rosary. The repetition of the name of Mary, full of grace, swings with the heart’s desire to find some kind of appropriate expression for what we feel for her. And what better way than with the words of the Angel Gabriel. Novenas and prayers weave a crown of childlike love for the Queen of heaven. We know that no one who is attached to Mary, will ever be lost. We must make it a worthy exercise of consecrating our loved ones to Mary for her care and intercession.
Our children may not miss out. To find the way to Mary is to be on the most secure path to the heart of Jesus. They must see in us that bond to the Mother of Jesus so that they, too, may benefit from her motherly affection and example of discipleship. Let them find their own childlike ways of showing their love for Mary. It can be the recital of the Hail Mary, an altar of Mary at home, a pilgrimage to Mary in our parish church, lighting a candle, flowers and special deeds for Mary.
Let us not forget that the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima is on 13th May. Last year this time we prayed the Hail Mary as contributions to her spiritual bouquet. She is dear to us as Our Lady of Fatima. We want to honour her in a special way.
May we show her our love as she will show us her love – Jesus, her Son. “Full of grace” means full of Jesus, the Son of God, full of the Holy Spirit, full of The Father, full of care of others.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 29, 2021
Good Shepherd: guide to Love in Action
Good Shepherd is without a shadow of doubt one of the most significant images of Jesus Christ. He said so himself, “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10). Countless are the images of the Good Shepherd showing him always as a shepherd of care, love, wisdom and strength. During the lockdown we are more than ever aware how much we are in need so such a leader who has come to serve, not to be served. We must never lose sight of the fact that our Good Shepherd himself is out every moment to bring the lost sheep home, and to gather the flock in a safe place.
Looking back, our point of departure is that in faith we believe and trust that our “chief-of-staff” is Jesus, our Good Shepherd. Under his loving care, we grow. He endows us with his wisdom to understand, analyse, interpret and, from there, to make good decisions. It is with his strength that we focus, endure and persevere. He, the Good Shepherd, is loyal to us, even if we fail and fall. More importantly, he knows us by name. And as his flock, we are not just one among many – we are HIS FLOCK, the one he leads to pastures that are good. He, the Good Shepherd, takes us away from toxic pastures of bitterness, intolerance and prejudices to fresh and green pastures of openness, patience and understanding. It is our experience that if we remain close to him, he will nurture us in moments of tiredness; he will bandage the emotionally and spiritually wounded. And equally important, his leadership is one of correction and guidance. To know him as our Good Shepherd, is to feel relieved and comforted that he is in charge. Not all things are solved immediately, some can wait until such time that he shows us the way. We don’t have to rely on our own meagre strength and think that all depends on us.
Our awareness has grown that we have to apply ourselves all the time to keep the level of unity and love as high as possible. As much as we try, we also realise that it is first and foremost the work of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who calls us together and mentors our efforts. Our measure of dependence on him is also our measure of trust in his ability to lead his flock. It is the kind of dependence, which results from a very deep, personal attachment to the Good Shepherd who knows his own. In other words, the more we put him in the foreground, the less we will be anxious about our weaknesses, failures and boundaries. The Good Shepherd makes space for all of us to have “green pastures” of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is, ultimately, not our work but his leadership and wisdom, which shows us the way forward. The Good Shepherd brings us the reign of God and His kingdom of truth, justice and peace. Under his guidance we find ourselves as one people of God regardless of ethnic group or culture. His leadership and healing presence forms and changes us to become loving shepherds ourselves. He leads us to freedom from crippling prejudices through which we stray from him or cause others to stray. The Good Shepherd keeps us in the fold, which he leads to total unity and love, until we all see God face to face and praise Him with one voice. In summary, that is his Love and Action as recommendation for us.
The most outstanding Good Shepherd moment of the parish is always the celebration of Holy Mass. This celebration is the test of where we find ourselves. Are we a welcoming community, do we greet, do we at least exchange pleasantries, do we make one another sense that we are keen to be at Church? Every week one of the most touching moments for me at Holy Mass is when I walk down the centre aisle in procession with the altar servers. It strikes me: “these are people in Holy Mass who have all come to be with our Lord. They are the communion of believers with whom I am blessed to celebrate the Mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ.” The celebration of Holy Mass is our time with Christ, our Good Shepherd who is the Lamb of God, the one who out of love gave his life for us, the sheep, so that we may have life in abundance. It is the time where Christ gathers us to fulfil his petition to the Father, that we all be one.
We are his sheep; he is our Shepherd. His Shepherd Love, Loyalty and Wisdom becomes our duty. We, too, become shepherds. It is our shepherd duty to care, proclaim and worship. We are his sheep; he is our Shepherd. Our duty of care is by the way we look after our children and youth. We pray, that the Good Shepherd bless our youth and youth programme, Life teen, as well as all our children and teachers in the catechetical programme. We try to reach out to our men, so that they take over from the Good Shepherd to lead the parish by the way they serve and create spaces of love and care.
Our celebration of our feast day would be incomplete and short-sighted if we did not remember the wider Church and our country. We are part of the local Church, the Archdiocese of Cape Town, under the Shepherd leadership of the Archbishop. Equally important is our awareness of the universal Church under Pope Francis, the successor of Peter who received the instruction to “feed the sheep”. Shepherds are leaders of love, wisdom and authority who have the concerns and well-being of their flock as their first priority. They are willing to be like Jesus by giving themselves without reservation for the life of the people. “Life in Action” is possible where we foster the Church’s assurance of unity in our leaders. Equally, on our feast day we share the responsibility to pray and work for a country that is united in the love of the Good Shepherd.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 22, 2021
Loneliness has been a very common experience of the lockdown. Even for people with very busy schedules loneliness is a real problem. It is that feeling of emotional emptiness and of being totally alone that opens within such a person a deep, empty shaft. It is the experience of a huge abyss, of sadness and pain. Such moments can be very risky if they repeat themselves or last for a long time.
Loneliness is increasing, especially among the senior citizens. They feel abandoned by family and friends, and of being of useless since they no longer can be productive or of use to others. We find them everywhere: primarily in nursing homes, frail care centres and hospitals. Others are in their own homes where they hardly get a visit or a phone call. But they are not the only ones. Loneliness is a particularly painful and sad experience for those who have lost a loved one. For them it requires so much time for social adjustment as they seek to carve out their place in society again. Increasingly loneliness is an experience also of the younger generations. They have a deep desire to be connected, loved and valued. However, many of them don’t ever find their desire fulfilled.
Loneliness has become a symptom of our time and the kind of society we live in. The family gatherings of two or three generations were the best tonic against loneliness and the most effective way of experiencing the large social support system. The visits of friends without rush from one appointment to another have become rare. Spending time with a relative or friend, in fact “wasting” time is something of the past. We live in a world where everything is measured by “getting something done”. It has become the common sickness that we find it difficult to find time for ourselves. It’s a case of “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” Today the child with the cell phone around the clock and the TV is primed for loneliness one day.
What can we do about it? Firstly, we must remember that the way we care for life is on the line. We are social beings in need of contact, interaction and companionship. And the older we get, the more we feel the need to be secure and cared for. What was done spontaneously in the past, must be done purposefully today: the care for each other. The different generations must come together to share time and mutual appreciation. In addition, we must be conscious of the fact that there are people in our own neighborhood who want companionship. It is amazing to see how their eyes light up when someone visits. The real miracle of being loved and appreciated comes out when it is just about you, for the sake of you, and for nothing else. Life has become incredibly fast. We have to resist becoming small screws in the huge relentless machinery of time. In other words, we must learn to slow down. We must find the time to sit at table and enjoy each other’s company for the meal. We must find time again to play. We must learn again to live from within, to be in charge of our lives. Otherwise, we wake up one day and find ourselves with the feeling of being remote controlled by outward factors that make up our diaries for us. The most important thing in life is relationships. Relationships slow down life, prioritise our appointments and reset our true values.
Prayer is a wonderful way of combatting loneliness. Being in the presence of the Lord, and meditating on his loving presence, is to know that I am not alone. And let us not remember that he also experienced loneliness in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was sad to find his disciples asleep while he was undergoing the agony of the pain in his soul. And then that moment of extreme loneliness when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” In prayer we discover the Lord Jesus who dwells in our souls.
Loneliness is challenging us. We must be aware that it is around us and we must learn to see it. Even in the happiest surroundings, people can be very lonely. We must learn again to share our time and love with others. The solutions are not alcohol, drugs and sexual relationships. The solution is the closeness of kind-hearted and generous people who make me feel wanted and valued. It begins with the fact that we see ourselves wanted and appreciated by the great and loving Triune God.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
April 15, 2021
Jesus is risen, alleluia – to be our love, peace and freedom
The message of Easter is peace and freedom. Peace enters us because we are receiving the most wonderful gift who is Christ, the Risen Lord. He dispels darkness and brings light. We are free as the children of God who cry out “Abba, Father”. Our freedom from sin comes through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ whose body still bears the marks of his wounds. We are free because through Jesus we have become children of the Father. This message is so appropriate for this time of uncertainty during the lockdown. Easter calls us back to the centre of our faith: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive, and among us!
In fact, we have become an Easter people, those set free to live in peace with one another and the whole of Creation. In our Easter hymns and prayers, the praise of the entire universe and of all humankind echoes: alleluia, Christ is risen as he said. In these words, we celebrate peace and freedom for all, and everything created.
Easter is God demonstrating that love is stronger than hatred, and that forgiveness brings healing whereas revenge poisons the mind and soul. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is here to stay with us, though seated at the right hand of the Father. Through the Resurrection the Cross of Jesus has been erected as the sign of redemption for everyone. It is the sign of his all-conquering love and the generator of hope in times of darkness, despair, gloom and death. In other words, there is and will always be a new sunrise that is the Risen Christ, the Sun that will never set on the world.
Easter, though repeated year after year, is never the same. It is not just the commemoration of an historic event. In and through the Scripture and the Sacraments, the Resurrection of Christ takes place in our midst and within the context of our living conditions, both personal and societal. We celebrate Easter within our time of social, economic and political chaos. We note the presence and actions of evil forces that have beset our nation, attempting to put a stranglehold on our hope, unity, social cohesion and national identity. There is the growing awareness that somehow, we are at the crossroads of our history yet again.
Easter casts light over the darkness of our country. It reassures us that there is hope in victory because Christ has overcome such evil and replaced it with the trust in his redeeming love that brings unity. As his followers, Easter is the time when we must close ranks as warriors of the Risen Lord in prayer and sacrifices. Believing in the triumph of the forces of goodness over evil, it is the time to unite in prayer before the Lord of history, who has made himself part of our lives and destiny. It is through prayer that we acknowledge him as King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, who has, as the Alpha and Omega, the first and final say over the events of our time. As Easter Christians we know we have a powerful God, Whose Son brought salvation to the whole world. We call on Christ to galvanise our small numbers and weak efforts to become a mighty source of intercession for our country.
Our Easter faith is that Christ, risen from the dead, unites us to be one nation. In him we have the foundation to believe that nothing can take away our unity, as long as we continue to maintain that in and through his Cross all barriers of division have been overcome. It is our belief that in him, through him and with him there is “neither Jew, nor Greek, nor gentile, nor man, nor woman”. There is an equality among us, which Christ has given through his Resurrection from the dead to make us one people.
Our Easter hope gives us the confidence that Christ will take charge of current events in our country. The Risen Lord is our hope that confirms our trust in his power to change the course of events, no matter how destructive they may be.
Our Easter love shows itself as love for each and every one, and that when we look into the face of any person, it is the love of the Creator- and Redeemer-God that shows itself to us. Easter love, stronger than any form of prejudice, looks at the heart of woman and man. It is the form of love of the Good Samaritan who looks even after the one who is from a different place and social group.
Such Easter faith, hope and love are only possible as the work of the Holy Spirit, which the Risen Lord sends. It is the Holy Spirit, which makes us see the event of our time in a new light, which is the light of Christ, to make us united in hope and trust.
Easter is God’s amazing power over death to raise His Son to new life and manifest the love of the Father for the Son. As long as we believe in Easter, we shall take a keen interest in the social, economic and political events today. Easter turns our lives back to society to help change it in the light of the living Christ. Because the Risen Lord is the Son of God who took on flesh to come into the world to redeem.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 31, 2021
Easter: Baptised in the name of Jesus
During the Season of Lent, we heard about the significance of baptism. The purpose was to prepare for the renewal of our baptism promises during the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday. We remember that our baptism is the most outstanding moment when we were integrated into the life of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To re-visit and re-discover this is a matter of grave concern as we find ourselves severely challenged in our faith practice during the lockdown. Our common interest is to bring our people that have been scattered now for over a year back to the fold of the Good Shepherd. Going back to our baptism can be the first of such an important undertaking. Baptism entails everything we are as Christians.
God lives in us, we have the name of Christ, “Christian” and we belong to the people of the covenant called the Church. Our whole life we spend to make this discovery, and to embrace it as the truth: God lives in us because through baptism we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, leaving a mark in our soul that can never be erased and a flame that will never be extinguished. He lives in us in the way that the life of Jesus Christ, his Cross and Resurrection, finds its way into our own lives for each one to realise: I am wonderfully redeemed to be an image of Christ.
Our baptism faith is that our Christian life is not about certain Church practices. It is about becoming a Christ-bearer and Christ-companion in the world. We bring Christ to the world, and we accompany Christ wherever we find him in the world, especially in other persons. It is our faith that the world will never be redeemed unless it passes through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ. It must take on the shape and features, yes, the face, of Christ. This happened already, as a kind of endless deposit of grace, in our baptism when each baptised person became Christ walking on earth.
From there, it stands to reason that the Church practices are an integral part of life. In other words, if I don’t go to Holy Mass on a Sunday, I should really miss it. I feel a deep desire for the union and communion with the Lord. It is not about feeling guilty because a rule of the Church has been broken. Rather, I dearly miss that dialogue and contact with my Lord, and the interaction with my sisters and brothers. If I haven’t prayed, I realise how much that conversation with God means to me because I miss it. And without it, I feel that my life, in the long run, is sliding backwards. If I do something wrong, then my conscience won’t let me rest because I instantly feel that I have let HIM down. And I miss having the harmony of love and goodness in our relationship. On the other hand, if I don’t miss those moments and that relationship, then something is seriously wrong. If I find out that I am quite comfortable not going to Mass or not working for the Church or not doing the right thing, then my faith has gone. If I don’t have a longing for the love and mercy and forgiveness of God, then I am no longer within His reach through faith. And that faith is my baptism faith – honest, true, personal and meaningful.
But God lives in us, and we live in Him. Through many hard experiences, and along by-ways we do come back to discover the truth of baptism in our lives – only in God will we find rest for our restless souls. Baptism has a spiritual-social meaning: all of us are God’s children; we are God’s “chosen race”. The words of St Paul to the Galatians 3: 27 are so significant for us: “All of you who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have clothed yourselves with him. There does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female (or white, black, etc.). All are one in Christ.” The Christian community is the experience of this unity and the social experiment that ethnic diversity is God’s work of wisdom and beauty.
When we sing “Hallelujah” (meaning “Praise the Lord”) today, it is because we no longer can hold back the joy that Jesus was raised from the dead by His Father with the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is what baptism promises us: we can also place our hope in the victorious love of the Father who has enkindled in us a trusting faith in Him because His Son has redeemed us. “Hallelujah”, “Praise the Lord” is the chorus of all the baptised, both in heaven and on earth (Revelation 19) who have seen the victory of God over sin and death through Jesus Christ whom He raised from the dead.
When we renew our baptism promises, then every promise is a “Hallelujah” to the Risen Lord, Jesus our Saviour, in whose name we are baptised.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 31, 2021
Easter Triduum at Home
Most of us will be at home for the Easter Triduum, starting with Holy Thursday until Easter Sunday. The following suggestions are meant to make the celebrations at home more personal and engaged in the celebrations at Church. In these final days, we want to go with Jesus.
Come, let us go with him
This day has two parts: the first is the Blessing of the Oils by the bishop. The priests and bishop use these oils for anointing at baptisms, the anointing of the sick and Confirmation. The bishop anoints the priest with holy oil on the day of his ordination. When an altar is consecrated the bishop uses oil.
At the same Holy Mass of the Oils the priests renew their promises and pledge loyalty to their bishop.
Part two of Holy Thursday is the celebration of the Last Supper. This celebration, too, has two parts: the first part is the washing of the feet (which will be omitted this year at Church. However, you may still do it at home); the second part is the consecration of the bread and the wine.
You need for the celebration of today:
A bucket of water and a towel
Collect your petitions for Holy Mass
The table set for supper after Holy Mass
A loaf of bread, or rolls or a French loaf
Light the candle
Gather 5 minutes before the live streaming begins. Keep silence or sing an appropriate hymn.
After the Gospel follows the washing of feet. Wash the feet of each other. Remember, it is Jesus giving us an example of love and service. As family members, we are for each other.
Say a prayer for priests on this day when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and priesthood.
The family supper continues the Last Supper as a meal of family love and sacrifice.
Take the lighted candle to the family table, symbolizing the continuity of Last Supper and family supper
Bless the food
Take the loaf of bread and share it with each other.
Come, let us go with him
Part 1: Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross will be live streamed from Church.
The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (in the afternoon)
You will need:
A Crucifix, placed on your Prayer Table
Light a candle
Part 2: Celebration of the Passion of our Lord
The veneration of the Cross: use your Crucifix, either bowing or kissing.
Easter: Celebration of Light
You will need:
Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday
Light your candles for the renewal of the baptismal promises
Bless each other with Holy Water
Do an Easter egg hunt with the children.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 26, 2021
Year of St Joseph
It came as a surprise that Pope Francis announced a year in honour of St Joseph. Or was it a surprise? It definitely isn’t for the Catholic Church with its very long history and tendency to think in hundreds of years. 150 years ago, Blessed Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph as Patron Saint of the Universal Church. It is this anniversary, which inspired Pope Francis to open the Year of St Joseph on December 8, 2020. It will conclude on December 8, 2021. However, the surprise effect is undoubtedly there. St Joseph, the father of Jesus and husband of Mary, doesn’t feature all that prominently in the Church today. Yes, there are some devotions to him, but our good saint is not in the full awareness of the Church. And, perhaps, for that very reason, it was time to turn the spotlight on this remarkable man.
In times such as ours, the Church usually turns its attention to the saints for their intercession. This is also the case now with St Joseph. We need protection. And that is what features so well in the life of St Joseph. He was the one man in whose care God had placed Jesus and Mary. One cannot think of a greater responsibility. Both Jesus and Mary found themselves exposed to very difficult circumstances. Mary, she found herself pregnant with a child whom she conceived by the Holy Spirit. And later Jesus was right after his birth in Bethlehem threatened by Herod. In both cases, Mary and Jesus, Joseph stepped up to take responsibility for them. He protected them. Joseph took Mary as his wife and looked after her. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until after the death of Herod they could return to the safety of Nazareth.
The life of Joseph fits into God’s plan of salvation. He is the threshold between the Old and the New Testament. Salvation was to come from the House of David, of whom Joseph was a descendant. The Messiah is an offspring of David. Joseph was the open door for Jesus the Son of God to enter the history of David and his ancestors. Joseph had his own worries for Mary and Jesus. He was strengthened and re-assured by the Angel to take care of them. His entire life is about care, protection and guidance of his family in Nazareth. He is a man of God – obedient, accepting, courageous.
A true father of Jesus, he was the best role model for Jesus to experience the tenderness, wisdom and strength of human fatherhood. These experiences opened to him the understanding of God as his Father – a God of love, compassion and forgiveness. Truly human, Jesus found his relationship with God his Father rooted in his relationship with Joseph, his father.
The Church endeavours to honour this great saint and implore his intercession for us. We, that is the Archdiocese of Cape Town, will have a monthly devotion to St Joseph for nine months until December 8. It offers us the opportunity to re-enkindle our faith in Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, as we revisit the childhood of Jesus through the eyes of Joseph. And so it should be that we learn to see Jesus and Mary with the eyes of Joseph, love them with his heart and think of them with his mind. Joseph had but one passion: the task he had been assigned to look after Mary and Jesus. He can be our pathway to relive the story of salvation through Jesus. Joseph had a special place in Mary’s heart. With her love we want to see and love Joseph. He had a special place in the heart of Jesus. With his love and respect for his father, we want to appreciate and love Joseph.
We feel that Joseph is one of us.
May he be our intercessor in this year dedicated to him.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 19, 2021
The Eucharist and the God-filled Christian
The Church owes its life and identity to the succession of the Apostles and the Bishops as their representatives. The succession of the Apostles takes us right back to the Upper Room with Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples. He instructed them: “Do this in memory of me”. The Passover meal renews and seals forever the covenant of God with His people. Our unity with the Holy Father and the bishops is our unity with Jesus at the Last Supper.
We stand today in the succession of the celebration of the Eucharist. Our Eucharist (Holy Mass) is in the direct succession of the Passover meal of Jesus in the Upper Room. For that reason, the Church was born from the Eucharist in the Upper Room, and for that reason, it celebrates its origin in Christ every time when the Eucharist is celebrated. Both aspects, the succession of the Apostles and the succession of the Eucharist, bring us into the succession of the love of God. It is “the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:37). This happened fully in the Passover meal in the Upper Room, in which Jesus left us a memorial of his Passion, death and Resurrection.
Therefore, the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ is for us the living moment of the love of God in Christ Jesus for us. It is the dialogue of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit as the bond of love. The Son shows the love for the Father by sacrificing his life in obedience for the forgiveness of sins. The Father shows the love for His Son by raising him from the dead. From this moment, nothing will ever be able to stand between the love of God and us:
St Paul says: “For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39)
If nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, then our mood should be one of optimism. The presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is the powerful expression of the eternal God who does not leave His people alone. In a time of great disappointment due to dwindling Mass attendance and fewer priests, in a time of frustration and sense of loss during the lockdown, in a time of so many challenges to our faith and faith practice, we celebrate the Eucharist as the sacrament of God’s powerful presence in His Son. The celebration of the Eucharist is the manifestation of Christian optimism due to God who is forever present. It is Eucharistic optimism.
Our time is characterised by an increasing flight from God. The relevance of God has become absent in the lives of so many people. The awareness of sin is rapidly vanishing. Religion is regarded as an obstacle to personal freedom. What does Scripture tell us about such a time? Our time is ready for the greatest gift possible. It is an answer that cannot be partial because the problem is so complete. The greatest gift of the Holy Spirit for our time will be GOD and the God-filled person. We are on the eve of God coming to us, since He is the answer to the needs of our time. And that is the reason and content of our Christian optimism. In the meantime, we accept the means offered us by the Church – the celebration of the Eucharist as the visible love of God Who is present, and the devotion to Mary, the woman who once stood at the dawn of a new era of faith and who fearlessly takes up that position again. Endowed with the gift to combat the evil one, she stands her ground to bring God again to the world through the birth of her Son.
The celebration of Holy Mass (Eucharist) demands all our reverence and attention. It requires careful preparation, personal participation in the life of the community, respect for the Church and reverence at the moment of receiving Christ in Holy Communion. Because the Eucharistic Christ is the most precious gift we have in the history of the Church and today.
Moments of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament reflect the continuation of our praise of God and our petition for the Church and the world. The Church needs more people who spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
The life of the Eucharistic Christ continues in us, the Christians. There is no longer room for complacency. The Christian today has to be the one who experienced the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus. Without this experience, our faith will stagnate, it will be without passion for Christ and the Church. Whoever has a deep love for the Eucharist has a desire to give back to the Church. God is the answer for our time. And God seen in woman and man is a gift to our time.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
March 12, 2021
What has the lockdown done to our faith?
The news that we are back to level 1 is very heartening. We remember that we have been there before, only to be catapulted back to level 3 and adjusted level 3. Let us hope that we can keep it on level 1. There is much talk going on about a third wave of infection and more potent variants. However, for now, let us just breathe deeply and use the new freedom. What does that entail for us as Church? Well, the most relevant information is that we are allowed to have 100 persons at Church services, social distance permitting. The other important thing is that we will have enough time for the Easter Vigil without having to worry about an early curfew, which just about destroyed our Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. We are even allowed to do our catechism lessons at Church whereby our priority still is the safety of the parents and the child. No one can be forced to attend or be discriminated when he or she prefers not to attend in person. In any case, so far, we have decided to be on the safe side and do our catechism classes online.
As we go along, there is a need to assess where we find ourselves as parish community. Certain questions must be asked, and only the parishioners can answer them. These questions pertain to the kind of parish we will return to once all the restrictions are lifted or when we may have a more open Church. The common observation is that by and large Sunday after Sunday we have almost the same people attending Holy Mass. And it is not as if they are occupying seats, which could have been taken by others. The reason is that most parishioners have still opted to stay at home. While it is the responsibility of each person to see to their health and safety, one may ask the question: why do so few parishioners venture back? Those over 60 and any person with an underlying condition have every right to be cautious. But we also have many young families, let alone young people who could easily use the opportunity of returning to Church. The essence and highlight of our Catholic Christian life is the celebration of Eucharist, the mystery of the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this celebration we enter into a personal dialogue with God, our Father, through the Holy Spirit. We experience what it means to be a community when we come together to worship. Health concerns aside, are we becoming too complacent because we have Holy Mass livestreamed into our homes? Is there the danger that this possibility is becoming a habit? It must be said, however, that many parishioners keep themselves conscious of Church belonging via their WhatsApp groups. That is, indeed, most praiseworthy. But where are our younger generations? Surely, this is the time when they can show up and demonstrate their personal interest in their belonging to the parish.
The Church needs an awakening after a long, long slumber during lockdown. It is so obvious that this is happening mainly around the sacraments of baptism and marriage. These sacraments signify certain, important biographical moments. We would like to see people taking an interest again in being Church. This has to do with the insight that Church is essentially also a communion of sisters and brothers called together by Jesus Christ. Being Church and belonging to it must again be a conscious decision. For us, Catholic Christians, it is so central to the expression of our faith that it is a sin to willingly stay away from Holy Mass on Sunday. Worshipping God is not just something minimal. It is the way we live as human beings and find purpose in life. It has to do with our hope, our relationships and our spiritual wellness. The wellbeing and future of the Church depends on a personal decision of each member. Church awakens in the hearts of its members!
What about the condition of our faith? The way we attend Holy Mass can serve as an indicator. Jesus had his own concerns about the faith of his people. The parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13: 1-23; Luke 8: 4-15; Mark 4: 1-20) recounts the different possibilities of our faith. This parable can be most helpful for us to gauge where we find ourselves in our faith. Are the seeds of our faith on the rocky ground, are they in shallow soil, are they among the thorns? In these three possibilities they don’t last long. The fourth one, the fertile soil, makes the seed yield abundant fruit. However, our faith is not just continuing in one condition. It can change all the time. Yes, even the seeds in fertile soil can become fruitless because the soil has become rocky, shallow or covered in thorns. In what condition is my faith right now? What do I do to make the seeds fruitful in fertile soil? Has my faith moved backwards to the other conditions? Has it become less strong, less fruitful? Or has it actually improved from the rocky ground to the fertile ground?
Our faith is a gift from God. But it needs nurturing. Jesus spelled it out in the parable of the sower and the seeds. Our capacity to receive God’s word depends on the kind of “soil” in our hearts. The seeds can be, however, also be lost or have very limited growth. Right now, we must ask ourselves the question: how receptive am I to God? What am I doing to grow in my receptivity to believe in Him?
The time of lockdown has been challenging in more than one way. Our faith practice and Church commitment, too, have been sorely tested. We can come out stronger and better if we renew our sense of discipleship. We are his disciples and missionaries today. Through us he continues to live and work, and his message of the kingdom of the Father remains relevant in the lives of people.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies March 2, 2021 (Bothasig)
The lockdown Church: more prophetic than sacramental
The time of lockdown threw all our usual understanding and experience of Church into total disarray. We were used to the “one-dimensional” Church, which is Church on a Sunday. At least, that was as far as our worship was concerned. With regards to catechesis, the disruption could not have been worse. Again, quite “one-dimensional”, we were used to the “drop off – pickup” model. This meant that parents dropped off their children and fetched them after the lesson. Of course, the lesson was at Church with a teacher. While the lesson was in progress, the parent or grandparent either went home or waited in the car park. As far as our care for the poor was concerned, we had a well-oiled machine. Members of the St Vincent de Paul Society bought the food, made up the parcels, and the recipients had their parcels delivered to their front door. Covid-19 changed that practice. Many members of our St Vincent de Paul Society and Helping Hands group were over 60 and justifiably cautious to go out.
It wasn’t just the way we do Church that changed. It was our understanding of Church in itself which came under scrutiny. Many people simply failed to adjust to new conditions and remained at loggerheads with the protocols and regulations. They were looking for possibilities to revert to “normal” circumstances. It is amazing what advice and suggestions they come up with. The most bizarre one is the so-called “drive by”. As the cars are filing past through the Church grounds, people remain in their cars to receive Holy Communion. This flies in the face of the understanding of Holy Mass as the communal celebration of the life, suffering, death and Resurrection of Christ, through which we become participants in his work of salvation. Anything else is total disregard for the dignity of the Eucharist. No part may be separated; the entire Holy Mass must be celebrated. Other suggestions attempt at looking for “loopholes” in the protocols and regulations. In the end, we have no choice but to abide by rules that are meant to maximise our safety.
What was the usual, traditional understanding of Church that was forced to radically change? Church was the Church of the Sacraments. That is so Catholic. Our Christianity is based on Jesus Christ the Principal Sacrament of God and the Church as the fundamental Sacrament dispensing the seven expressions of the life of Christ. The Coronavirus pandemic has robbed the Church of its sacramental activity, and that is a huge blow. The sick and dying were longing to see a priest, but to no avail. Visits not allowed! Communion to the home-bound – not allowed. Funerals under strict regulations only and with limited attendance. Holy Mass, depending on the level of lockdown, is see-sawing between more and less people in attendance. Worship is heavily curtailed by the exclusion of singing. Baptisms, weddings and even ordinations to the priesthood are subject to the same rules. Confirmations were difficult to arrange and restricted to the closest family members. The Sacrament is the glue in our Catholic Church. It is the way we do things. Or rather, the way the Sacrament conveys us the grace of Christ. The ritual of the Sacrament gives us the certainty in faith that Christ has acted in the Sacrament. The sacrament that made all this possible is the ordination of the priest. Lockdown meant that people, to a large extent, have had to come used to the fact that the priest was rather remote and equally restrained by the protocols and regulations of lockdown.
Deprived of this sacramental nature of being and acting Church, we have, willy-nilly to look again at the way we are Church. It emerged as a predominantly prophetic, collaborative communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is prophetic because it continues to uphold hope as our divine gift to face the challenges. Hope implies that we have purpose in this time, no matter what. It is the food of the soul amidst so much devastation of personal lives, economic existence and social life. Without hope, we die. Church is prophetic because it listens to its members to engage with them on how the Holy Spirit speaks through them. The prophetic Church does not have a blueprint in times that are forever changing and uncertain. However, what makes it constant and consistent is the conviction that God is taking it through very special times that need continuous discernment. By the grace of the Holy Spirit in a spirit of prayerfulness, God’s will is revealed. Together we, as Church, discern God’s will. In other words, being prophetic and becoming a Church of the Holy Spirit, makes it dynamic. Being dynamic is the equivalent of the Church that has become far more collaborative in this time. It depends on the willingness of our lay people to take up the cudgels and represent it at home and in different spaces of life. Church is communion. It is the community of the sisters and brothers in Christ, based on the one common dignity of the baptised who share the common priesthood of Christ. The deepest expression of the Church as communion is the celebration of Holy Eucharist.
As long as the lockdown continues, we must see it as an opportunity to look at the relevant dimensions of Church, such as domestic Church. The most important experience is the growing bond with Jesus Christ in the diverse aspects of life and that in him, we all are sisters and brothers.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies February (Bothasig)
February 24, 2021
Lent: A Season of Renewal
Lent is, indeed, is the time for reflection, improvement and direction. It is common experience that now and then we need time-out to see where we are and where we are heading. In fact, for most of the time it really is about pausing to think about ourselves, about what we are doing and about the world around us.
Just in recent weeks and days we have been overwhelmed by changes to our personal and social life due to the regulations of the Coronavirus pandemic. A sigh of relief is going around the country at the arrival of the vaccine. But even that gives us scant hope for major changes. How appropriate it is that Lent brings us the fresh air of hope.
Before we go over to the order of the day, it is important that we let the light of our faith into what is happening around us to re-affirm our conviction in the Lord of life and history. As Christians it should be our hallmark that we are alert to what is happening around us and relate them to our faith. It is not just about the politics and events of the day. Our faith is that God, in His own way and time, shows us His intervention. Hopefully, we come out purged from the evils, which have plagued, frustrated and depressed us for such a long time. Now, it is the time for re-building, a time for nation-consciousness, a time for solidarity with the entire nation. Those who believe know that prayer is a powerful force, which brings the strength of God and the healing power of the Cross of Christ into play.
Another factor, which has forced us to our knees is experience of the sickness and death of so many persons who were known to us. With all our scientific knowledge and technology, there is a simple, yet profound insight: what we need is the cure of the virus and healing within ourselves We are humbled to experience that we are vulnerable and insecure. On the positive side, we are achieving, what is so typical to human nature: hardship galvanises us. We become one. And that is exceptionally good.
The Season of Lent offers us ample opportunities to reflect on God’s role in our lives. To seek and find him is more important than any offerings or sacrifices. He is the source of our solidarity with each other in good times and in bad. The name of God is fully revealed to us through Jesus Christ, His Son. Through his loyalty to us and God, Jesus reveals that God is an incredible factor of life, a reality so real and tangible. From him we learn that God is about healing, forgiveness, peace, unity, happiness, social justice and truth. Jesus Christ is God’s solidarity with us, and His solidarity with the poor.
The fruitfulness of our Lent begins with our desire to have God in our lives.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies (Bothasig)
February 19, 2021
Lent: our sacred time
No sooner had we finished the Christmas Season than we find ourselves facing the most daunting and sacred time of the year: Lent. We don’t need much introduction to this time of the year. From personal experience and tradition every Catholic knows by now almost instinctively what is expected. The buzz words of the Church are prayer, penance, and charity. However, for many it is associated with sacrifice. There is hardly if no focus on Easter. The target is Good Friday! The suffering and death of Jesus casts a wide shadow over the whole Season of Lent. And so, we go through the gears – Ash Wednesday, then follows what we give up for Lent. Some might attempt to attend Holy Mass more frequently. Many will go to Confession. But for most of us, the main attention will be on the Stations of the Cross. For many Lent can prove to be a long and arduous time of experiencing the usual shortcomings of inconsistency, lack of discipline and perseverance as try our hardest to keep our Lent resolutions. For others, the afore-mentioned spiritual exercises are crutches that offer welcome support to struggle through the long time. There are others who make these very same exercises the highways to Calvary. They are familiar with the practices of spiritual exercises like the Rosary, novena, etc. Lent is merely a shift of focus.
Lent is a most sacred time when we re-calibrate our relationship with Jesus Christ. All too aware of his suffering and death for us, we are also aware of our sins and need for forgiveness. There is a certain force that draws us to Lent, which is deeply human: it is the awareness of sinful nature, of a life that is fragile and vulnerable, of a life that endures so much, of efforts falling short, of moral weakness and of expectations unfulfilled, and of the desire to be different and better. Many times, we will make the experience, which Jesus himself had to endure - being tempted by the Devil. We must, however, remember, that he can only tempt. I make the choices and decisions.
Lent is a time of cleansing. It begins with the change of our attention away from ourselves. The essence of Lent is to reaffirm our relationship with Jesus Christ. And this takes time and effort. Prayer, penance and fasting serve this purpose. The most important cleansing is that of the ego, which is self-centred and selfish. Where this attitude exists, grace cannot enter. The Holy Spirit cannot do its cleansing work, which presupposes a spirit of remorse and repentance. “Create a pure heart in me, God, put a steadfast spirit into me.” (Psalm 50) Prayer and repentance go hand in hand. They set the tone for a new God- and Christ-centred relationship. They are more important to God than all the sacrifices we can muster. The spiritual danger of sacrifices is that we think that God owes us something in return. “This is how much we do for You. Now reward us for it and grant our needs.” God was never impressed with such sacrifices. What counts before God more than anything else is the humble heart. “For you do not delight in sacrifices. (…) The true sacrifice is a broken spirit: a contrite and humble heart, O God, you will not refuse.” (Psalm 50) Lent is a time of cleansing of relationships. It has to do with the willingness to reconcile and be reconciled. The harbouring of anger and the unwillingness to forgive disempower Jesus on the Cross who died for the forgiveness of sins and “that all may be one” John 17). We block his power to forgive with anger, bitterness and aggression. Lent is a time of cleansing our relationship with God. It is a time of prayer and reflection. Basically, we must simplify our relationship with God. It is never, first and foremost, about the number of prayers. Rather, it is about the personal nature of our easy and simple conversation with Him. I am Your child; You are my Father. More than that I don’t have to say. That relationship needs the celebration of Holy Eucharist as the dialogue between God and us through the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in his community of the Church. Holy Eucharist connects to the Covenant with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. We become part of the greatest network of personal, caring relationships. It is the moment of expressing and receiving the redeeming love and mercy of God. The celebration of the redeeming love of Christ for all of us makes us sensitive to glorify the Father by attending to the needs of our sisters and brothers. Thereby, we extend the love of Jesus, which alone pleases the Father.
Lent is the time to look beyond Calvary to the empty tomb of Jesus. Lent is merely the path to the horizon, on which the Cross of Calvary awaits us. But that very same Cross is turned towards the garden where Jesus was buried. From here the Father raised His Son to new life. His Resurrection is the victory of the Father’s love over death. The Resurrection of Jesus invites us to be thankful. Lent, leading up to Easter, is the time to count our blessings. Let us be grateful to God. It is the time to give God the benefit of the doubt that He is greater than destruction and chaos. The time of Covid-19 has made death for many of us a household word. How do we cope? There is no quick fix or cheap answer. But God does refer us to the death of His beloved Son through whom death is not the end but the door to new life. Grief and pain are not less but they receive a context of hope. It raises the expectation that love will embrace grief and prevail. It is the hope that grief through loss of a loved one goes through the pierced, wounded heart of Jesus where it finds its rightful place.
Let us begin Lent, our sacred time. Let us step out of our inner darkness into the sun to bask in the glory and mercy of God through Jesus, His Son.
Fr Ivanhoe Allies February 12, 2021 (Bothasig)