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 23 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 23 October 2020. “All things hold together.”

My episcopal motto is unus Deus et Pater omniumThis is an excerpt from Ephesians 4:6 and is translated as “one God and Father of all”. It concludes the first reading of today’s Mass. Omnium literally means everything – including the ecology. This expression was chosen as an encouragement to us to embrace to a greater extent the high calling to live as God’s children by caring for each other and for the ecology. 

The social context in which I was informed of my appointment was one of disunity and disintegration. It was shortly after a Muslim place of worship was attacked in New Zealand. In Sri Lanka a Catholic Church was bombed and in California a Jewish synagogue was attacked. Religion which was supposed to bring people together had been turned into a cause of hatred and division. Sadly some power brokers show themselves willing to trade human life and worth for ideological gain. In such a situation there can be no winners. The whole world becomes a place occupied by losers as we trade neighbourliness for hostility. This goes against every moral value and must be strongly condemned in the name of everything that is holy. Yes! There was joy at being called to Cape Town but the wider global context brought about sadness.

In that situation, during long hours of meditation the motto was chosen. For me it became a prophetic utterance showing that divine intention was to hold all in unison. Colossians 1:17 expresses this quite plainly as it says: “In him, all things hold together”. Luke 11:23 also makes clear that those who do not gather with Christ, scatter. The word for gather in the original text means “holding together”. If we have to be true to this text then we have to learn to embrace otherness – irrespective of whether it is based on race, creed, economic status, and everything else that we use to separate ourselves from the neighbour.

On the global stage some have generated conspiracy theories and have even incited violence simply to make political mileage. In Europe, soccer matches which are meant to give joy have been turned into disgraceful spectacles of racial abuse. In other places a simple common sense measure such as the wearing of a face mask in public during a pandemic in order to protect others, has been turned into an ideological tool which separates people according to the lines of political affiliation, thereby creating a new form of tribalism with its narrowness of vision. Against all this, the word of God still stands firm: “In him, all things hold together”. This notion is nicely expressed in the motto of the official seal of the USA – “E pluribus unum”, meaning “out of many, one”. The Gospel of Luke is clear that those who are not for Christ are against him and those who do not gather (or hold together) with him scatter (cf. Luke 11:23).

Let us pray: Father, we pray for our world so torn apart by hatred and division. Our humanity becomes increasingly more scarred as even a pandemic cannot humble us. Send your Holy Spirit into the hearts of all – especially leaders, whether civil or religious, so that they may lead according to your plan to hold all people together. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

[Blessing].