Pastor’s Corner for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

The light on a hill or the yeast in the dough?


This has been a rather bleak week for South Africans. You could not open the news without being bombarded with news of corruption, lying officials, municipal infrastructure crumbling, undemocratic parties threatening mayhem. There was also an international financial ratings group downgrading South Africa, potentially making it more difficult and expensive for the government to borrow money. There hasn’t been much good news lately. It is the steady drip-drip of bad news that turns us into fatalists, people who want to retreat into our won safe worlds. We disconnect from the grid with solar, we dig boreholes, so we don’t rely on the city’s crumbling infrastructure, we hire private security to ensure our safety. We invest our money overseas. And saddest of all, we stop participating in the democratic processes of our country. We don’t register to vote, and if we are registered, we don’t vote.


In a situation like this we face the same temptations as the early Church, which tried to separate herself from the chaos of her age. The Church saw herself as a perfect society, not needing anything from the world, and not prepared to engage with the world in case the world infected her with the world’s sinfulness. It thought of itself as the light on the hill, bringing illumination to a darkened world. This image of Church is incomplete, deficient in many ways. The teachings of Vatican II emphasised that the Church is not separate from or distinct from the world but is part of it. We share the same joys and sorrows as the world, we experience the same challenges. In this way we Christians can be considered yeast, affecting every part of the dough to make the bread rise. We cannot separate ourselves radically from the world, partly because we need the world, but also, the world needs us.


The world needs us to be both a light, showing the way, but it also needs us to be the yeast, changing things from within. So, my prayer is this, that we don’t let our fear or disillusionment silence us, or stop us from participating in the political life of our country. We need more good people to be in political parties, and NGO’s, and in the civil service. People who will change the world for the better, and not let themselves be captured and corrupted by the system.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ