Father’s weekly message

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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)

 

  1. “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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. When you arrive at Church, be friendly. Greet people. See if there is someone whom you can help in some way or another.

    7. Upon entering the Church, kneel or bow properly before entering the pew. Remember: we worship with our body.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. Listen to the sermon. Try to get one special thought that speaks to you. Share that thought with others afterwards.

    11. 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”.

    12. 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.

    13. Once outside, be friendly. Greet.

    14. 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.

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

MARY

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

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

Holy Thursday

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

A candle

 

For Supper

The table set for supper after Holy Mass

A loaf of bread, or rolls or a French loaf

Holy Mass:

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.

Family Supper

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.

Good Friday

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:

Candles

Holy Water

Easter eggs

 

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)