Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 9 October 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 9 October 2020. Luke 11:14-26
Perhaps it will be good to start with some biblical catechesis before I get to the main point of this reflection. In verse 15, we come across the word Beelzebul. This is the only mention of this name in Luke’s Gospel. The name comes from the Canaanite idol Baal and Luke uses it as a synonym for Satan. In verse 16, we read that they asked Jesus for a sign in order to test him. The word used indicates hostility. In other words they asked him for a sign not to learn from his response but to trip him up. This happens at strategic points in the gospel story. In the context of having cast out a demon as shown in our present passage, the Gospel reader will undoubtedly remember the Devil trying to trip Jesus up by asking for signs and demonstrations (Luke 4:1-12). The same verb is used in that text.
Okay, now for the main point. In verse 23, Jesus says that anyone who is not for him is against him. That simply means that in Christianity there is no fence sitting. Christianity is not a religion of neutrality nor of mediocrity. It is not only about avoiding evil – it is more about actively doing good. We are either for Christ, or we are against him. This is not ideology. It refers to our lifestyle. We have the Gospel as a template against which to measure our lifestyle. Do we forgive as we are asked to? Do we share our bread with the hungry? Do we attend to those who are marginalised? In the previous chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus once and for all dismisses the myth that the neighbour has to be just like me. Allow me to refer to a text I posted on Facebook on 5 October 2020, commenting on the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
I pointed out that this is probably one of the most well known stories in the New Testament which teaches a powerful lesson on being non-partisan. In spite of knowing the story so well it boggles the mind to find so much partisanship in the world of today. There are insiders and outsiders. We see this clearly in the worlds of politics, religion, commerce, neighbourhoods, country clubs, car ownership, health status, professional status and sport.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus puts an end to partisan affiliations which exclude others. Notice that the religious people – those who knew the catechism of their day, refused to show mercy but the Samaritan who in effect was an untouchable, imitated God by showing mercy and going beyond the call of duty. Jesus teaches that the neighbour is not only those who look like me, think like me, live in my neighbourhood, believe what I do, worship like me, eat like me, and support the same political heroes and sporting clubs that I do. No – none of these is important. The neighbour is anyone in need. Without this kind of mindset, I run the risk of turning Jesus into an outsider who is not welcome in my circles.
This is exactly what happened when the crowds accused Jesus of being inspired by the prince of demons. They turned him into an outsider. I wish you joy as we declare by our way of life that we are for Jesus and not against him.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town.