Prayer and Reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 12th June 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Friday 12th June 2020. 

A reflection on the Eucharist. Suggested passages Mark 6:34-44 & Exodus 16.

With the feast of Corpus Christi coming up, I thought it would be useful to reflect on the Eucharist. Many people restrict the biblical passages referring to the Eucharist to the accounts of the last supper, but very early on in the Gospel stories Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it. See for example Mark 6:34-44. When Jesus broke bread in the wilderness he tapped into the collective religious memory of the Hebrew people. This sets us up for further reflection.

Those who benefitted from the miracle will undoubtedly have recalled the wilderness generation that was miraculously fed by God (cf. Exodus 16). They had departed from Egypt and were starving. It was the need for bread that took them to Egypt in the first place. Pharaoh had bread and the first year they bought bread from Egypt. The second year they had no money and paid with their livestock. The third year, having neither money nor livestock, and still feeling the hunger pangs, they paid with their very selves as they became Pharaoh’s slaves. You can read about this in Genesis 47. Moses was appointed by God to lead them out of bondage and he did so with a great struggle but with God on his side he led them out. 

As soon as they crossed the Red Sea they started to complain. They were longing for the fleshpots of Egypt. It was important for them to feel their hunger because it was this hunger that separated them from the bread of Pharaoh. So they crossed the Red Sea in Exodus 14, sing the Song of Victory in Exodus 15 and in Exodus 16 God gives them bread. But this bread is so strange that they exclaim: ‘man-hu’ (which is Hebrew for ‘what is this?’). We have anglicised it to ‘manna in the desert’.

God’s bread was unfamiliar to them but they would soon learn as this bread came with trademark instructions on the loaves as it were. Each was to take only what was needed. Any extra would end up smelling foul. With God’s bread there was no warrant for hoarding (as Pharaoh did) and no need for Pharaoh’s strategies. Each could be neighbour to the other. There was no need for slavery and God’s bread was sufficient for each day. 

In Christian language this is called ‘our daily bread’ and it is only possible where people share. To the extent that we refuse to share we bring Pharaoh’s reality into the Promised Land. Meaningful participation in the Eucharist is only possible when I situate myself outside the logic of the Pharaohs of this world and share my bread with the hungry. I wish you a meaningful reflection on the bread that God gives.

[Concluding prayer & Blessing].

Bp Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town