7 March, 2019

For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose their very selves?

~ Luke 9:24-25 ~

We are the sum total of the choices we make. What we do defines us. It is how we are remembered.

Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo could have remained attorneys all their lives, living relatively comfortably without the stresses of prison or exile. Beyers Naudé and Bram Fischer could have conformed to the then demands of their community and advanced to the highest positions in the land. But, out of principle, all four chose resistance and have become icons of our new democracy.

Sadly since 1994 it sometimes looks as if a different vision is emerging. Instead of standing under the banner of the common good, many have gone over to the standard of self-enrichment. Using rationalisations (patriotic capitalism, with the claim that this will trickle down to the poor) and self-justifications (“I never fought the Struggle to be poor”), former revolutionaries use their political connections to get rich.

The issue is not primarily that they have become rich or successful. It is rather that in many cases this success is achieved at the cost of others, the poor for whom democracy was so hard fought. When political connections are marketable, when political parties are means to personal enrichment, when public policy is made that benefits a few at the cost of many – the idea of democracy is tainted.

Where do we stand? Do we stand with Christ? Do we stand with the values of Christianity and other great faiths that all call for compassion and sacrifice, for the common good? Or do we stand, let me put it subtly, ‘somewhere else’?

Let us not forget: We are the sum total of the choices we make. What we do defines us. It is how we are remembered.


In a time
where greed
and self-interest
seem to obscure
and sacrifice,
Lord help me
to stand under
your banner.
Guide my
and renew
in me
a spirit
of the


Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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