The Year 2020 “must teach us of the need to change,” South African Archbishop Reflects

Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese.

A South African Archbishop has, in a reflection, termed the year 2020 one with lessons on the need to change, for the better, how we relate with God, with others, and with oneself amid COVID-19 restrictions.

“Last year must teach us the most fundamental lesson of the need to change. It is a lesson that if we continue on the paths that we have adopted over the past years, we are heading for destruction,” Archbishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa’s Cape Town Archdiocese has said in a Wednesday, January 6 reflection.

Archbishop Brislin adds, “All our relationships need to change, our relationship with God, with others and with ourselves.”

He goes on to explain the need for change in how we relate with God saying, “The pandemic has taught us not only the fragility of human life but also the fragility of human constructs, such as the economy.”

He adds in reference to COVID-19, “It has taught us that having received the great gifts of science and technology, they do not contain all the answers to life, and they do not ultimately have the power to save.”


The 64-year-old South African Archbishop expresses gratitude to God “for the blessings of intellect, science and technology and the progress and advancements they bring to human life.”

He notes, however, that such developments “come with the most ancient of temptations – arrogance and pride, as ‘Man’ begins to believe that he is capable of anything, that he does not need God.”

“2020 has certainly brought home to us the frailty of human advances and our need for God,” he reiterates in his reflection published on Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

“Our relationship with others needs to change,” the Archbishop of Cape Town says and further observes, “The pandemic has brought out the very best in people and there are many examples of astounding sacrificial love, of acts of bravery and courage.”

He acknowledges with appreciation the “sacrificial love” of various frontline workers “who are willing to risk their lives for those they serve, who work long hours and who face the consequences of stress and burnout.”

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“But there are some who will not even wear a mask simply because it’s ‘uncomfortable,’ who cannot delay parties or social events because they are obsessed with instant gratification,” the Archbishop bemoans in his reflection.

To Archbishop Brislin, “2020 has made it clear to us the interdependence of life, that the health and wellbeing of others is dependent on my responsible and thoughtful behavior; it has taught us with great clarity that we cannot serve God, who is Life, unless we serve the life of those around us.”

“We should also have learnt that interdependence is not only about our relationship with other human beings, but our relationship with the whole of creation, and the urgent need for us to become more respectful and caring of nature and other forms of life, indeed of the very earth itself,” he adds in his January 6 reflection.

The Archbishop who has been shepherding the people of God in Cape Town since December 2009 also says that 2020 has offered lessons about relating with oneself.

“Do I really understand what faith is all about, or am I like the disciples in the boat who did not recognize Jesus in the storm and who did not understand the miracle of the loaves?” he probes making reference to the Gospel reading of January 6.


He continues, “Do I recognize that my faith is not only about comfort, consolation and the spectacular actions of Jesus, but that the road to resurrection and life is always through the Cross?”

He further probes, “Have I accepted that the Cross and the Resurrection are irrevocably intertwined, there is not one without the other? In times when we experience the Cross, such as in this time of the pandemic, does my faith in resurrection and life remain unshakeable?”

Towards changing our relationship with ourselves, Archbishop Brislin continues to reflect, probing, “Can I see, despite the uncertainty and anxiety of this time, the presence and action of Jesus? Can I take to heart with faith and trust, his words, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear’?”

“Let us pray that we, and all the world, will accept the change that is required of us,” the South African Archbishop implores.

He adds, “I wish you all a blessed and grace-filled New Year. As we begin this year, battered by COVID-19 and its consequences, we pray that the Lord will be close to lead us by the hand, so that we may have the strength to face with faith whatever challenges we meet.”

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