Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 11 June 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 the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Friday 11 June 2021
Good morning and welcome once again to a brief faith reflection. At the outset it must be pointed out that no amount of preaching and commentary on the mystery of the Sacred Heart can ever take the place of our own prayer reflection on the reality of God’s unfathomable love and mercy. Meditate on the first and second readings for today’s Mass. See the description of the tender love of God in the reading from Hosea and bask in that love. Also take time to reflect on the depth of God’s love for us in the second reading from Ephesians 3.
The pandemic is resurging in a serious way and we must do everything in our power to promote and protect life. I am alone here, having gotten used to setting up the cell phone in selfie mode so I do not need the face mask. But once I step outside the mask becomes essential as it serves to protect others. And that is what today’s feast is all about – bringing comfort to others and making life bearable for them. This year the Gospel reading for the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus comes from the 19th chapter of John’s Gospel. It is a familiar text calling to mind the piercing of the side of Christ.
Whereas John 19:34 describes the piercing of the side of Jesus, we remember from elsewhere in the NT that when Jesus died, the veil in the temple was torn not from bottom to top but from top to bottom. That veil was approximately 20 metres high. A human being could never have torn it. God did it (cf. Mark 15:37-38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45). Why is this significant? What was behind the veil? What was God destroying when he destroyed that curtain? The curtain screened what was known as the most holy place of the Temple – the holy of holies, a place which represented heaven itself. Only the high priest could enter that place once a year to make a sin offering – and this after he himself was purified. Leviticus 16 contains all the rubrics for the Day of Atonement. In the NT the book of Hebrews makes three references to the “veil” or curtain culminating in Hebrews 10:20 where the veil in the Temple and the veil of the flesh of Christ are brought together. The implication was that when the veil of his flesh was torn, the true holy of holies – i.e. the heart of Christ itself was made manifest.
At the death of Christ, the curtain which separated humanity from the Divine was dramatically done away with. Holiness is now achieved through the death of Christ. Atonement for sins is achieved through the death of Christ. Our accessibility to the divine presence is mediated through this saving death. The 9th chapter of Hebrews describes and interprets this for us. This might be a good chance to read it. The emphasis in all this is on the mercy of God. All this involves ritual because through ritual we participate in the healing process. Ritual opens up for us possibilities for ongoing dialogue with the Divine. The Sacred Heart is none other than the merciful heart of God.
Let us pray: Lord, during this time we carry many burdens. The Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the human community in many ways. There is uncertainty, fear, illness and economic hardship. The body of Christ, is affected, infected and inflicted but we know that where the body is the head is also there. Today’s feast tells us that through his sacrifice on Calvary we are saved. Thank you for the gift of so great a redeemer. Help us to realise that no matter how heavy the burden, he is right there with us. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop S. David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town