Week of 13 May, 2019

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

~ Revelation 7:14 ~

The Book of Revelation is truly remarkable. Amidst a great persecution, its author – assumed to be the disciple John – sets out a glorious vision for the faithful: the promise that the apparent imminent destruction of the Christian community will pass because God is ultimately in control.

It seems appropriate to reflect on this in the aftermath of our General Election.

The genius of John’s vision lies in the fact that he is both utterly realistic about the present times (which are pretty ghastly) and yet filled with a vision of faith and hope in God’s victory. He does not resort to telling people that their suffering is an illusion – that would be false hope and highly irresponsible. Rather he acknowledges that their struggle is real. But he reminds them that God is with them and that in the end the power of God will prevail.

If we think of our present situation – a country struggling with inequality, corruption, economic woes and the ever-present issue of racism and prejudice – we may be tempted to ask: what was the point of the Election? A shift in power has occurred in national and provincial assemblies – but can it make a difference? Will anything change? There is a temptation to despair.

In the light of John’s vision, let me suggest a few things.

We live in the tension between the vision of what we want to become – a more equal, non-racist, non-sexist democracy where all are protected by rights and share freely in the duties of citizenship – and what we are now. In short, we live in the in-between times.

Our task is to do what we can realistically to improve the situation while holding to the vision of a more perfect society we aspire to, that vision enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In the words of the African American civil rights movement’s song, we must keep our “eyes on the prize” as we work to improve South Africa.

A new Election has produced a new government. In the midst of conflict and strife it must work together to renew the country. With the shifts in parliamentary demographics we must rethink our assumptions about government. We can no longer imagine that government rests simply with the ruling party: all parties and persons elected last week must share in the process of governing South Africa.

Faced with the prospect of disaster, we need to remember that cynical but true old adage: “We must all hang together – or be hanged separately”. There is a cost to this: we cannot afford political grandstanding and ideological point-scoring.

In the absence of the eschaton we must be realistic in discerning what is good for the country. We must clean away the dross of the past and work together to improve South Africa.


Father, Let me see with Your eyes the needs of your people. Help me to work together to build-up, rather than break-down, Your Kingdom. Help me to see Your will and always give me the grace to do it, and the courage to see it through. Send Your Holy Spirit so that we might together receive the grace we need. Amen.


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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