Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 17 July 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.
Reflection for Friday 17 July 2020. What God wants is mercy, not sacrifice.
In the Gospel passage for today’s Mass we see Jesus being attacked by the Pharisees because his disciples did what they considered to be unlawful on the Sabbath. Jesus in response gives an Old Testament precedent for what his disciples did and highlights the fact that compassion is the greater good. To back up his claim he cites a verse from the prophet of mercy viz. Hosea. “Mercy is what pleases me not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). It is remarkable how often this logic is expressed in the Bible. The highlight of this line of thinking is in Isaiah 58.
It is important that we understand the word “mercy”. Mercy is one of the qualities of God and when we show mercy, the image of God comes to perfection in us. “Merciful like the Father” was the motto of the recent year of Mercy. This was taken from Luke 6:36 – though in that case, the New Testament uses a different word for “mercy”. That word could also be translated as “compassion”. A New Testament word closely related to mercy is almsgiving. They both have the same root. According the Gospel of Matthew, almsgiving is one of the three indispensable dimensions of our relationship to God. The other two are prayer and fasting. This is what is considered to be at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount and is highlighted in the early days of Lent each year. Almsgiving – or works of mercy, together with fasting are presented to us on Ash Wednesday and prayer follows a few days later.
When we start to see that without mercy we cannot be Christian, then we begin to see who the real beneficiary of our kindness is. The poor to whom I make contributions do benefit, but the main beneficiary is me. The condition of the poor and my response to it determines whether I have a real relationship with God, or whether I merely get by on religious superstition.
Many organisations, parishes and individuals of goodwill have made generous contributions toward the feeding of the poor during this pandemic. Charity has indeed abounded. We are grateful to those who have contributed and from time to time we will make further appeals in order to fulfill this God given ministry. We are also grateful to those who are on the ground making purchases, packing and taking the food to those in need. They do this voluntarily and no one knows just how much they do. In this regard the words of Christ are fulfilled: “Your left hand does not know what your right is doing” (Matthew 6:3). Their acts of mercy
demonstrate their relationship with God and they will be richly blessed.
Let us pray: God our loving and merciful Father, your Son urged us to be compassionate as you are compassionate. Send us your Holy Spirit to help us to imitate you in charity each day so that we may receive the blessings reserved for the merciful. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].