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 30 April 2021, 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 30 April 2021: Luke 1:26-38; Acts 1:12-14

Today the Church holds up for us a shining example of unconditional obedience to the will of God. Today we celebrate Mary, Mother of Africa. This feast gives us a good opportunity to see what Scripture says about her. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:12-14), Mary is portrayed as being with the Apostles and others in the upper room, engaged in “continuous prayer” (Acts 2:14). The original text indicates a persistent prayer of petition, talking to God, and also that the community at prayer were of one mind in all of this. In short, Mary engaged with the praying community and it was on this community that the Holy Spirit descended on the feast of Pentecost. 

The Gospel passage is familiar to many of us. It is the text of the Annunciation and gives us some important clues as to the character and person of Mary. The appearance of the Angel and the ensuing dialogue indicates a prayer experience. The Gospel of Luke presents Mary as a woman of prayer. In fact several times in the first two chapters of Luke, Mary who was completely overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35), is described as having profound prayer experiences. She listens to, and dialogues with, the angel. She surrenders to what God wants of her. When she visits Elizabeth – and Elizabeth, who was also filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41), confers the title “mother of my Lord” on her – this after pronouncing Mary to be the “most blessed among women” (Luke 1:42-43). She recognised Mary as being blessed because of her belief in God (Luke 1:45). Mary’s response to all this is to quote scripture as she sings an Old Testament canticle (1 Samuel 2:1-10). This is known to us as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and is said or sung at the Church’s Evening Prayer every day.

But back to the text of the Annunciation. The attentive Bible reader will notice that the announcement of the conception of the Saviour took place in an obscure place. It was not where the holy city was. It was in Galilee, which means circle, and in the time of the New Testament it was called “the circle of the Gentiles” because of the number of Gentile neighbours. The people of Jerusalem used to frown on the people of Galilee because they mixed with these neighbours. Mary came from a remote place believed to be unholy because of Gentile presence. Our next hint at Mary’s lowliness is given in the way in which the narrative is conveyed. Mary is first of all described as a virgin – someone whose opinions would not have counted. We are told that she was betrothed to a man named Joseph and his ancestry is immediately given (Luke 1:27). And only then are we told that the virgin’s name was Mary. It is clear in the original text that Luke conveys this as an afterthought. No ancestry is given. Why this omission when, prior to this and also after this, Luke does not hesitate to indicate the ancestry of the women in his story? Earlier in this chapter we are told that Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron (Luke 1:5) – hence of priestly descent, and in the next chapter we are told that Anna was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36). 

This strategy is simply to remind the Bible reader of how God works. God constantly shows a preferential option for the lowly. The small of this world are deemed great by God. There is a whole litany of this in the Bible. In the Cain and Abel story God chose the offering not of the firstborn but of the younger son (Genesis 4:4-5 – where the original text is constructed in such a way so as to draw attention to this). In Genesis 27, Jacob the younger son received the blessing of the eldest. Joseph was belittled by his siblings but raised by God (Genesis 37ff). When Jacob blessed his grandsons – the sons of Joseph called Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:13-22), he crossed his arms in blessing so that the younger received the blessing of the first born and vice versa. When David was appointed King, his own father and brothers did not realise that it was David who God had chosen (1 Samuel 16:6-13). They minimised him to such an extent that they did not even recognise that he was not with the group. And later on, how did the young shepherd slay the might of the Philistine army? He did it with the toy of an Israelite boy – a sling (1 Samuel 17:48-51). Yes indeed – God chooses the humble. 

This continues into the New Testament where the humility of Jesus is amply testified. It reached its highpoint when he washed the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-15). Constantly during his ministry he taught that the humble shall be exalted and the mighty brought down (Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11). This is how God works. And how the humble virgin of Nazareth is chosen. In a recent address to an interfaith gathering Archbishop Brislin defined humility as allowing God to be God. This is exactly what Mary did – she allowed God to be God.

The greeting offered by the angel is an important Old Testament greeting and is used very sparingly (Zephaniah 9:9). It is only used for the daughter of Zion. The words rendered “Hail Mary, full of grace” (Luke 1:28) is a popular way of translating the text. The original is complex and reads: “Rejoice, you having-been-graced-by-God” (Luke 1:28). Some observations from the syntax of Luke 1:28 are helpful: firstly, “rejoice” (which shares the same root of “having-been-graced”) refers to a joy so intense that it cannot be contained. This is why Pope Francis starts “Evangelii Gaudium” with these words taken from Zephaniah 9:9. The second observation is that only God could have graced Mary. The Greek language has mechanisms to show this. The third observation is that now that she has been graced she could never be un-graced. This intervention by God is permanent and irreversible. This is why Mary declares that “all generations” will call her blessed because God has looked on her lowliness and has done great things for her (Luke 1:48). This is what happens when one allows God to be God. The fourth observation is that being graced is an essential part of who Mary is. If she was not graced she would not be Mary the mother of Jesus – she would be someone else. 

The text is rich and filled with surprises – but our reflection must be brought to a close.

Let us pray: Lord, when the angel left Mary after her acceptance of your will, he did not stop his work. He continues to come to the followers of Jesus daily to ask if we could make room for your word in our hearts. We are called to offer our poor human flesh to become tabernacles of your word. Help us to respond as generously as Mary did. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 28 April 2021, 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.

As we begin to feel the chill in the air during the nights, we are reminded again that the season is changing and winter will soon be upon us. The cycle of the seasons is indicative of the cycle of life – things emerge and things pass. The Covid 19 pandemic will also, one day, fade away. In the meantime we need to persevere in patience and consideration for the health of others. Welcome to this reflection. In the Gospel of today’s Mass (John 12:44-50) we hear these words from St John:

At that time Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me”.

Let us pray:

O God, life of the faithful, glory of the humble, blessedness of the just, listen kindly to the prayers of those who call on you, that they who thirst for what you generously promise may always have their fill of your plenty.  We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

The prayer was taken from the Collect of today’s Mass. We believe in Jesus, but what is it that we believe about him? We too “see” Jesus (not physically, as in the past, but with eyes of faith). Who is it that we see? The most graphic, astounding and unsettling image of Jesus Christ is Jesus hanging on the Cross – indeed a stumbling block and folly to many people (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). We believe in a Christ who is broken and beaten, a Christ whose life is poured out from his body.

After the sign of peace at Mass, we enter into the third action essential to the Celebration of Eucharist. You will recall the four necessary actions: Jesus took bread, he gave thanks, he broke it and he gave it to his disciples. It is a pity that the breaking of the consecrated bread at Mass, referred to as the fraction rite,  is not better emphasised as it is integral to the celebration. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke the bread  and shared it among his apostles. This symbolic action manifests the Eucharist as a time of sharing and participation. So important was this action that the early Church referred to the ritual which we now know as the Mass, as the “breaking of the bread”. It symbolizes, and brings into reality, unity among believers who share the one Body of Jesus Christ, and thus become one body among themselves. It is a unity achieved through the broken Body of Jesus and his outpuring on the Cross for the reconciliation of sinners.

It is our communion with each other, as well as communion and participation in the life of Jesus Christ. It expresses the fact that we do not attend Holy Mass as individuals, nor do we only pray individually. We attend Mass as a community, and the prayers of Mass are our community prayers. It is really important and essential for us to understand this, especially for those who live in big cities. Cities can become an anonymous way of life, a place of isolation and loneliness. Living as a community in a city requires a lot more effort  than, for example, if you live in a small village. Our baptism has called us into the Church commnity, into the family of God. This is why attendance at Sunday Mass is central to our Christian vocation. There are some who say something like, I can pray at home; or perhaps, there are so many distractions at Church I can concentrate better at home. We cannot, and must not, separate ourselves from the Church community – we are required to play our part. Presence in the community is part of keeping “the Sabbath holy”. The gathering together as the community of believers is in itself a central part of our prayer and worship. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I will be present among them[1], Jesus taught us. We can also remind ourselves that Jesus regularly attended Synagogue prayer. In these times of Covid, when many people are not able to attend Mass through no fault of their own, they should join a livestreamed Mass and make a spiritual communion, and in that way unite themselves to the community.

As the presiding priest breaks the Bread, the Agnus Dei is said or sung. It calls on Jesus, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29,36) who has conquered sin and death (1 Peter 1:18; Revelations 5:6, 13:18). The priest also breaks off a little of the Bread and places it in the chalice containing the Blood of Christ, saying quietly May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it. This action is called the fermentum and dates back to the early Church as a sign of communion between the Bishop with the local churches. In those days, not everyone could take part in a papal Mass. Parts of the Bread from the Pope’s Mass was broken off and then taken to the local churches so that they would not feel separated from communion with the Holy Father. This was similarly done by Bishops to express community with local churches.[2] The Pope is the symbol of communion in the Universal Church, and a mark of our catholicity is to be in communion with the Pope, just as much as the Bishop is the symbol of communion in the local Church (the diocese) and we always act in communion with him.

After the fermentum the priest will quietly pray a prayer of preparation before he receives the Body and Blood of Christ. It is an opportunity for each person to say a private prayer of preparation, so that we can receive Communion worthily. One of the two prayers the priest says personally is, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me parted from you. After this prayer he will genuflect (or make a deep bow) and  then raises the consecrated host and wine for all to see saying, “Behold the Lamb of God…” – but more of this next week.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                      R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Heavenly Father, so often we can negelct to recognize the presence of your Son Jesus in our lives at times of brokenness and emptiness, and we neglect to see Christ in the brokenness of others. Fill our hearts with faith, compassion and mercy so that we will never doubt your guidance and that we may look kindly and generously on those in need of our help. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.


[1]    Matthew 18:20

[2]    Oesi-Bonsu, Jospeh  Understanding the Mass, St Francis Press, 2016

RCIA Talk by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Bishop Sylvester David will give be giving a talk on the last phase of the RCIA, Mystagogia, during a Zoom meeting on Monday April 28 at 7 pm (log on is available 15 minutes before). The Zoom link ID is 873 9557 6567. No password is required.

RCIA groups can have a discussion within their groups if they wish to do so after the input.

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 April 2021, 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.

Bishop S. David OMI. Friday 23 April 2021. Text for reflection 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

As we prepare for the Eucharistic Congress in September 2021, I share on how to celebrate the Lord’s presence with us in practical ways. 

We live in a world that is saturated with words. Words can do two things. They can build or they can destroy. Words which convey hatred, untruth, jealousy, obscenity, division and gossip are words which destroy. In many places around the world, ideologies are built on lies. People act on lies. Jesus is clear in the Gospel of John that the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). 

St Paul tells us “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort” (Ephesians 4:29-31). When we use destructive language the Spirit of God can never feel at home in us. All this is a clear invitation to us to change our speech patterns to reflect the character of the baptised. We must train ourselves to avoid lies, gossip and obscenities. It is quite easy to stand at a pulpit and say e.g. do not gossip. But we need to help people to stop gossiping. How do we do that? Well – who gossips? A person who has a negative self esteem will always feel inferior and in order to make him or herself feel good, will have a need to make others look bad. The only way to get over that habit is to learn that each of us is loved by God. 

After the resurrection Jesus appears several times. Even when the Apostles had doubts and were huddled in fear Jesus appeared to them and his appearance dispelled their fear as he gave them that familiar greeting: “Peace be with you”. But did he ever appear to Herod, the Chief Priests or the Pharisees? Never. He never appears to the proud. Similarly when we use the wrong type of language our hearts become like the empty tomb of which the angel said: “He is not here”. What then is the right type of language? Notice in Luke’s gospel Jesus appears to people who were talking about their encounter with him in his word and in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:36). In this time when we anticipate the Eucharistic Congress it is important to see that the Mass offers us the same template. We listen to his word, and then just as he did, we (i) take the bread, (ii) say the blessing, (iii) break the bread, and (iv) share it. These are the four Eucharistic actions of the Church and these are steeped in Scripture. We are given the same gifts that were given to the Apostles. And it is only when we can give words to our encounter with him that he will become present to us. The instances of the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of the bread occur well before the paschal celebrations (e.g. Mark 6:41; Mark 8:6), during the Passover ritual (Luke 22:19), and also afterwards (e.g. Luke 24:30-31). 

It is very interesting that after the first miracle of the loaves (Mark 6:34:44), they failed to recognise him and thought he was a ghost (Mark 6:49). Why this failure? Mark answers it for us: They had not understood the breaking of the bread (Mark 6:52). Whereas in this case they thought he was a ghost, after the resurrection, he was thought to be a stranger. Prior to the breaking of the bread we are told that “their eyes were prevented from recognising him” (Luke 24:16). Their eyes were only opened when he broke the bread (Luke 24:30-31) and then their hearts were burning within them (Luke 24:32).

Luke 24:48 declares that “You are witnesses to this.” That is why the dismissal at the end of Mass is in fact a sending: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. / Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”. We are witnesses to the work of Christ in our lives. And when we act on that reality and learn to love, accept, and forgive, our homes become transformed and we can rightly profess that he was buried in the tomb but now risen in our families. In this regard let us recall what we heard at the Easter vigil: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). What was in Galilee? Galilee was where they lived and worked – in other words in the experience of our everyday lives we have the capacity to encounter the risen Lord.

Let us pray: Lord we thank you for the many ways in which Jesus shows himself to us. Open our eyes to see him. Help us to so understand the breaking of the bread that our witness to his presence may bring blessings to others. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Bishop Sylvester David OMI 
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 21 April 2021, 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.

Welcome to this reflection. We are now in the third week of Easter and, as Bishop Sylvester pointed out in his reflection last Friday, the Gospel Readings of Mass are taken from chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel, and we are presented with the beautiful teaching on the Bread of Life. I have chosen the first two sentences of today’s Gospel (John 6:35-40) as our brief Scripture reading:

At that time: Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.”

Let us pray:

God our Father, may what we receive in the Eucharist be accomplished in our lives, that we may bring the light of your love to those we meet and that the joy of the Resurrection may find a home in the hearts of many. We make this prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

Last week I spoke of the Lord’s Prayer in the Mass and how appropriate it is to pray the Our Father as we prepare to receive the “Bread of Life”. The prayer said by the priest, immediately after the Lord’s prayer, is called the “embolism” and it picks up on the last petition of the Our Father, deliver us from evil. The priest then prays: deliver us Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days…. It is a fitting expansion of the request that the Lord deliver us from evil, that we may have peace and be free from sin and safe from distress as we await the coming of Jesus in hope. It ends with the doxology that, in some traditions is attached to the Lord’s Prayer, for the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever.

This is followed by the prayer for peace: Lord, Jesus Christ, who said to your apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will. The beginning of this prayer is taken from John 14:27, but we also know that the Risen Christ in his appearances to his disciples would greet them with the words “peace be with you”. We also know that in his “priestly prayer”, Jesus prayed for unity among his followers, that they “may be one” (John 17:11). Peace is a deep concept and should not be treated in a superficial way. It is not just the absence of conflict, but is the presence of harmony, prosperity and respect. Peace encompasses forgiveness, reconciliation and unity; it overcomes negative emotions and passions that can afflict us as human beings, in order to restore balance and sound relationships. The Eucharist itself both requires peace and unity as worthy dispositions of those who receive Eucharist, and also brings about and enhances peace and unity – they are a fruit of the Eucharist. We cannot worthily receive the Eucharist if we are not in loving communion with our brothers and sisters. Peace and unity are intrinsic to the very meaning of Eucharist itself. Reception of Communion demands that we do everything we can to ensure that in our own environment that we strive to bring about peace and unity to a practical realisation. 

After the assent, the “amen”, given by the people to this prayer for peace and unity, the priest will greet the community with the words, the peace of the Lord be with you always, to which the people respond, and with your spirit. Before Communion it is a timely reminder of the need for peace, harmony and unity to be present among ourselves. There is no room for an “us and them” scenario in the Church. There may be different roles in Church and different expressions of our baptismal vocation, but there is only “us” – we all belong to Christ, and we belong to each other, we are the Body of Christ which is a unity of different parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are in communion with each other.

The deacon (or if there is no deacon, the priest) will invite the community to make a symbolic gesture of peace, Let us offer each other a sign of peace. It is usually our custom in South Africa – in non-covid times – to greet those around us with a handshake. In these times most of us give a small bow to others. This is a symbolic act that makes personal the prayer for peace and unity. It is highly inappropriate to ignore someone who is sitting close to you and refuse them this sign of peace because they are of a different race, or perhaps poor, or because you may not get on with them. As I have mentioned, the peace that we strive for must overcome the negative emotions and passions we sometimes experience. We have to make a conscious attempt not to be ruled by such negativity. Since it is only a symbolic gesture, it is also inappropriate to move out of your place to offer others the sign of peace. It is not a time to “congratulate” others, for example those who have just made their First Communion, just been Confirmed, or just ordained, and so on. That defeats the purpose of the sign of peace and shows misunderstanding of its meaning in the liturgy. Similarly, the celebrating priest should not abandon the consecrated bread and wine on the altar by leaving the sanctuary to greet the community with the sign of peace.

Having thus reaffirmed harmony among ourselves and all creation, as well as our commitment, we enter into the third essential aspect of Eucharist, the breaking of the Bread which is called the Fraction Rite. I’ll talk about that and what it means next week. 

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Heavenly Father, as your people continue to meet the struggles and uncertainty of our time, we ask you to protect them from all evil and harm. Be close to them that they may learn to trust you more and to place their every hope in you. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.

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 16 April 2021, 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 16 April 2021. Second Friday of Easter

This post is based on the one I offered on the second Friday of Easter last year. I composed another for today but felt that this one contains a few basic insights which we all need to embrace, remember and retain. And so with a few updates, additions and revisions, I present the reflection:

Today we start our annual Easter pilgrimage through the sixth chapter of John. Over the next few days up to Saturday of next week, the Church gives us an opportunity to meditate on John’s teaching on the Eucharist during our daily Mass. If I may be bold enough to offer some advice: I recommend at least two readings of the whole of John 6 over the next two weeks. Read the whole chapter at one go once a week. If the text is read with ‘fresh eyes’ it will cause a stir, and the depth of the Church’s practice of the Eucharist will strike home. In fact only then will the piecemeal meditations for each day fall into place. Please treat this as important and as preparation for the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest from 5-12 September this year.

A few years ago during a fraternal conversation, my now deceased confrere Bishop Barry Wood OMI spoke meaningfully about pastoral care. He said something to the effect that when people are desperate they do not need to hear theories, discourses and canonical prescripts. They simply need to be accompanied. Those who have the privilege of being in parish situations, those who have to answer the doorbell to someone desperate for food, and those who minister to refugees and dis-enfranchised people will know what the Bishop meant. The Gospel text of today’s Mass shows us just how Jesus acted when there was need … and it is exactly as Bishop Barry had said. Prior to giving the bread of life sermon Jesus feeds them. While Phillip shows himself to be the economist working out very quickly just how much it will cost to feed the crowd and comes up with the theory of impossibility, Jesus gives them to eat from what was available. Barley loaves is mentioned twice in the passage. This is significant because barley was the food of the poor. Wheat was too expensive. So from what a poor boy offered, Jesus feeds the multitude.

The original text of our gospel passage notes that the crowd followed Jesus because of the signs he had done not with the sick but ‘with the weak’ (John 6:3). The implication was that these people too were ‘weak’. In any event Jesus perceived that they had need for food. They were hungry and the first pastoral action of Jesus was to give them food. Jesus is introduced not so much as a teacher or a preacher – that will come later. At this point he is someone who simply cares for people and feeds the hungry. What a wonderful lesson in pastoral theology from the supreme pastor himself.

In the passage given for today we note that there was nothing to eat, but there was a small boy with two barley loaves. As already mentioned barley was the food of the poor. During this time in the life of our local Church, through parish efforts and through Caritas Cape Town, efforts are being made to feed those who face the current pandemic with serious hunger pangs. It is a mistake to think that those who are poor have nothing to give. Let the poor boy in today’s text be an example to us all whatever our station in life. When the poor make available what they have in the presence of Jesus, there is more than enough. The sharing taking place in some parts of the Archdiocese, through self sustaining gardening projects, bears testimony to this.

Let us think about this for a while – a poor boy feeds the crowd with everything he had. Does this not reflect the attitude of the poor man who gave himself as “the bread of life” (cf. John 6:35)? Does the call of Pope Francis for us to become a poor Church for the poor now make more sense? This call is nothing else but a call to become more Christ-like. 

To conclude I wish to draw attention to the role of Andrew in this passage. He introduces the boy with fishes and loaves to Jesus. Whenever we find Andrew in the the Gospel of John he is introducing someone to Jesus. He introduces his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41), together with Philip he introduces some Greeks to Jesus (John 12:22) – (isn’t it interesting that Philip first takes the Greeks to Andrew?) And in today’s passage he introduces the boy with food to Jesus (John 6:8). Andrew is literally the public relations officer of the apostolic group. It is interesting to make this observation but what is important is this: Who have we introduced to Jesus? I wish you a meaningful reading of John 6.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 14 April 2021, 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.

On Sunday we celebrated the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday. Once again, we are reminded of the love God has for us and his desire that we should have life and have it to the full. Welcome to this reflection. The excerpt is from the Gospel of today’s Mass, John 3:16-21.

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Let us pray:

Almighty God and Father, every year we recall the restoration of human nature to its original dignity through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. May we, too, receive the hope of rising again that we may show in love the mysteries we celebrate. We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

The Eucharist is the Sacrament of Life. In the Eucharist we fulfill Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me”, and in receiving Communion we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of liberation, for Jesus’ death has liberated us from sin and from eternal death. We recall his words, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you (John 6:53). For this reason, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, God is given glory and praise as the priest says “Through Him, and with Him, and in Him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever”. The people respond with what, as I have said before, can be considered the most important response of the Mass; “Amen” – it is so, it is true, it is certain. This is an acclamation of faith, an acclamation of belief that the bread and wine have been transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. It is an acceptance that all that has been said and done is true, and it is an assent to the doxology, the final prayer of praise that brings the Eucharistic prayer to an end. The “amen” should come from deep within the hearts of all who are present and it should be a conscious renewal of belief in Eucharist. This ratification of the Prayer of Thanksgiving was essential, as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians when he writes, What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? Ideally, the “Amen” should be sung, for singing is another way of lifting our hearts to God. At the very least, it should be pronounced clearly and audibly by all.

Once the Eucharistic Prayer has been brought to completion, the priest invites the community to pray the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”. The “Our Father” was not always part of the Mass and was probably inserted in the 4th Century. Saints, such as Ambrose and Augustine, saw the Lord’s Prayer as an ideal way to prepare for receiving Holy Communion. It is a prayer deeply special to Christians as we were taught to pray it by Christ himself. It gives praise to the supremacy of the transcendence and dignity of God “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name”. It affirms our belief in God’s Kingdom and its values, as well as our commitment and desire to be obedient to God, “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  We pray for our daily bread, both the material bread and food we need for our bodies, but also the “bread of heaven”, his Body and Blood, by which we are nourished spiritually. We pray again for forgiveness, as we did during the introductory parts of Mass, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. We pray, lead us not into temptation, that the Lord will protect us from temptations, since we are weak and often fail; the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). It can be questioned whether God would ever lead us into temptation. In the Gospel (e.g. Matthew 4:1) we hear that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Essentially, we pray to God not to allow us to be tempted, and not to allow us to be tempted beyond our strength to resist (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). And we acknowledge our need for salvation and protection from God as we pray, “Deliver us from evil”. We are in need of God’s power to protect us from the evil one.

The Lord’s Prayer, when prayed carefully and reflectively, is an ideal preparation for Holy Communion. It affirms God’s salvation and his Kingdom which is already among us. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Lord’s Prayer has an added doxology, for the kingdom, the power and the glory is yours, now and for ever”, but this doxology is absent in St Luke’s Gospel. The early Church Fathers also did not use this doxology, and so traditionally Catholics don’t use it when praying the Lord’s Prayer. In the Mass, the doxology has been inserted as words of praise to God, but are not placed at the end of the Lord’s prayer, but rather at the end of the following the prayer (“the embolism”) when the priest prays “deliver us, O Lord, from every evil…”

Because we become so accustomed to the liturgical ritual, we tend to “rattle” off a number of the beautiful prayers that make up the Mass. Part of deepening our appreciation of Eucharist, and part of preparing ourselves better to receive Communion, we should ensure that when we pray the “Our Father” that the words come from our hearts. It is important to prepare properly and conscientiously to receive Holy Communion. After all, Communion means uniting ourselves with the very life of God, so that we have a share in his life. It is part of our path to holiness, and we receive Holy Communion with confidence, knowing that God desires that we should not perish, but we should have eternal life – as we heard in the excerpt from the Gospel of today’s Mass.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                      R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Show your presence to your people, Lord, and bestow on the them the grace of Resurrection, that they may always rejoice in the hope they have received and be protected from the darkness of despair.  Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.

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 9 April 2021, 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 April 2021. John 21:1-14

This text opens up an opportunity for us to look at the mystery of the Church. What is the Church? From the New Testament we know that the Church is the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. The Church is not so much an ornament as it is a Temple made up of living stones i.e. you, me and a host of others of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, cultures and with varying degrees of holiness, commitment, and even brokenness.

Whenever we examine a mystery that is deep and complex it becomes helpful to use imagery and that is exactly what the Apostolic Fathers did when they sought to understand the mystery of the Church. I want to mention three images and amplify one of these. The Fathers presented the Church using the image of Sun and Moon saying that just as the Moon reflects the light of the Sun, the Church too ought to reflect the light of Christ. The second image used by the Fathers is that of Mother. Using maternal categories they explained that the Church generates new life through the womb of the baptismal font, nourishes this life on the breasts of the Old Testament and the New Testament, feeds us with the finest wheat, pours oil on our wounds when we are ill, forgives us with tenderness, and in general, takes care of us from the womb to the tomb.

The third image and one which I want to amplify is that of boat. It is hardly an accident that the main gathering space in the Church building is called the nave – from the Latin ‘navis’ meaning ship. In earlier times boats were made of wood and the Apostolic Fathers felt that just as we are saved from sin by the wood of the Cross, we are saved from the storms of this world by the wood of the boat. This image of boat for the Church was no apostolic thumb suck. They had a love for the Scriptures and would have known that the word for the ark by which Noah was saved (Genesis 6:14) is the same word that Scripture uses for the basket by which Moses was saved (Exodus 2:5). This word became a symbol by which God saves through water. Notice in the New Testament how Jesus would urge the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side (Matthew 14:22 and parallel texts). Notice that Jesus got into the boat, sat down (whenever a Jewish Rabbi sat down it meant that what he was to say was important) and taught the crowds from there (Luke 5:3). Notice also that it was Peter’s boat.

In today’s passage Peter wants to go fishing (John 21:3). The verb indicates that this was not merely a Sunday afternoon fishing trip – he wanted to go fishing on an ongoing basis. He was a fisherman before Jesus got a hold of him and after the crucifixion he wanted to go back to his old way of life. There were seven apostles in Peter’s boat that day (John 21:2). (Seven is the number of perfection for the Jews). They caught nothing and Jesus appears (John 21:3-4). He is never far from his Church when it is in need. He asks a question which the English translates as: “Caught anything friends?” (John 21:5). In the original he asks: “Anything to eat?” From the form of the verb it is clear that he wants to know: “how will you sustain yourselves on an ongoing basis?” or “How will you be nourished each day?”. And then he took them back to how he touched them the first time – “drop your net on the other side” (John 21:6) and the results were astounding. Whereas Peter starts off by wanting to go back to business as usual, after encountering the risen Lord he learns that it can never be business as usual. He jumps into the water. This was risky, as the last time he did this he nearly drowned (Matthew 14:29-30). They caught a number of big fish. 

This text must be read alongside Luke 5:1-11 and the similarities and differences must be noted. In the text prior to the resurrection i.e. the Lucan text, there are two boats and two nets. In today’s passage there is one boat and one net. In the Lucan text they netted many of the same kind of fish but in today’s passage there are many of several kinds of fish – remember “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 7:9). Whereas in the Lucan text the nets began to tear (Luke 5:6), in today’s passage describing as it does what happens after the resurrection, the net did not tear (John 21:11). That is simply an indication that in spite of numerous weaknesses that Church will not fail. Just as his physical body was torn and bleeding on the Cross and not one of his bones was broken (John 19:33-36) – so too with his mystical body the Church; torn apart at times through defections and scandals – not one of her bones will be broken. The Church will not fail simply because it is the Church of Christ.

Let us pray: Father, thank you for the gift of the new life of the risen Christ which he makes available to us. Thank you for Easter joy. Thank you for nourishing us through your Church and help us to be worthy members of so great a mystery. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Prayer and Reflection by Archbishop Stephen Brislin

Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 7 April 2021, 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.

Welcome to this reflection. I wish you all a blessed and life-filled Easter. We rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death. He has opened for us the gates of heaven and, while we are still in the world, our hearts and lives belong to him. Our true home is unity with Jesus Christ in his Kingdom. We are the Easter people, the people of Resurrection, and therefore the joyful acclamation “alleluia, alleluia” is always on our lips. I have chosen an excerpt from today’s Gospel, Luke 24:13-35.

And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. As they drew near to the village to which they were going, He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him saying, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; and he vanished out of their sight. They said to each other, “did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Let us pray:

Almighty God and Father, year  by year we rejoice in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Graciously grant that by celebrating the Easter mysteries, we may grow in understanding and faith, and that our hearts will burn within us through the presence of the Living Word, that we may serve you and our neighbour humbly and joyfully. We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

The two disciples, walking on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus, met the Resurrected Christ without recognizing him. They began to speak to him about the events that had taken place in Jerusalem concerning “Jesus of Nazareth”, that he had been crucified and buried, but that the women had not found the body when they went to the tomb. Jesus in turn began interpreting the Scriptures of the Old Testament, and this is what made their hearts burn. Yet they still did not recognize him – that would only come later when they were at table with him and he broke the bread, and then he disappeared. At once they were energized to return to Jerusalem immediately to tell the apostles that Jesus had appeared to them and they recognized him in the “breaking of the bread”. In this account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus we recognize that there is already an example of the celebration of the Eucharist – they listened to the Word and then they broke bread. The “breaking of the bread” caused them to recognize Jesus, although they had not recognized him on the road. The Eucharist gives us a totally different and new experience of God – it is beyond and more transcendent that any other encounter with the Almighty. We, who have the Eucharist, know that we cannot put into words the experience it entails, nor how it changes our lives –  but it does. The two disciples, when they recognized Jesus in the “breaking of the bread”, lost their despondency and gained new energy – they returned immediately to Jerusalem to share the news with others. So too, the Eucharist is our source of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and witnessing to him through good works. 

The Eucharistic Prayer, which I spoke about last week, is the consecratory prayer, the prayer of miracle, that brings about transubstantiation. The unleavened bread that is offered to God, and the wine, become the Body and Blood of Christ, and we pray the Eucharistic Prayer to fulfil Jesus’ command “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19) – receiving Communion is the highlight of our encounter with Christ, but the Eucharistic Prayer is central to our fulfilment of that command and also our need to be present and witness the miracle of the changing of bread and wine. We should not allow our understanding of Mass to be superficial and reduced to receiving Communion only.

The language used in the Eucharistic Prayer (and other parts of Mass) is quite different from everyday language. This is precisely because the Mass is not to be considered as a merely “everyday event” – it is meant to be a foretaste of a different reality. It is meant to take us into the realm of God. This is the reason, too, that vestments are used by priests and deacons, why there is incense and bells, genuflecting and bowing, as well as other ritualistic symbols, gestures and actions. The singing is also different (generally) and is a formalised praise of God. It is meant to present “the other” to us, to help us see that there is a reality beyond the material reality of the world. It is a spiritual and supernatural experience. If we want to understand this more we should think also of the “heavenly liturgy” described by St John in the Book of Revelation[1]. In short, it is a sacred event and its sacredness should always be safeguarded.

Many of us wonder today why people leave the Church. Surely, if we sincerely and wholeheartedly believe that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Jesus, how could we ever leave that? St Peter himself, after many people had leftJesus when he had given that hard teaching to the Jews saying “if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” and Jesus asked his apostles whether they wanted to leave him as well, replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life”. Whatever reasons people may have for leaving the Church they must also fundamentally  include a loss of belief in the Eucharist. That is why it is so important for us to continually deepen our appreciation of this Sacrament, and the miracle it involves. When we lose our belief in Eucharist, some will then equate communion of other Churches as being the same, and others lose their appreciation of the sacrament of the ministerial priesthood (Orders), and the importance of succession through the laying of hands that links us, through the centuries, to the Apostles.  We need to pray constantly that we will hold fast to his belief because, the moment we lose it, we lose the essence of being Catholic. We prayed in the collect of Monday’s Mass: “grant that your servants may hold fast in their lives to the Sacrament they have received in faith”. May we always hold fast to it.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you                                      R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

May the loving God strengthen you in your faith, may he nourish you through the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus, and may he grant you eternal life .  Through Christ Our Lord, amen.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.


[1]    Read, for example, http://blog.adw.org/2010/09/the-biblical-and-heavenly-roots-of-the-sacred-liturgy/