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 18 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.

Friday 18 June 2021. 2 Corinthians 11:18; 21-30. Please read the text.

We live in a world in which success is measured by what one has – by the brand names, by those we associate with, by what one drives, by where one lives, by one’s educational qualifications and a host of other external attributes. In sharp and striking contrast to all this, Paul claims to be a fool for Christ’s sake. He has all the attributes that his adversaries have in terms of breeding, learning and other associations but as he says elsewhere in scripture, he counts all this as rubbish compared to his life in Christ (Philippians 3:8). Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to use only polite language when speaking of religious matters and the English translation follows this unwritten rule. The language in the original is a lot more robust. Paul does not count all these external things as mere rubbish – the word he uses is far stronger.

In the today’s text Paul speaks of his sufferings as the qualifying marks for his claim to be a Christian and an Apostle. Far from the tendency today to complain if life is not easy, our heroes of the faith showed courage and tenacity when difficulties arose. They never gave up. We see this in the lives of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Job, Tobit, John the Baptist and Jesus. Jesus in fact encouraged his followers to choose the narrow path rather than the well trodden path of fortune and fame. Jesus lived a life of poverty, not even having had a stone on which to lay his head (cf. Matthew 8:20). He came into this world in a borrowed cradle and left in a borrowed tomb. He died a shameful death in all humiliation and degradation but because of this was raised by God and given the name which is above all other names (Philippians 2:5-11). God’s logic is vastly different to ours.

Paul outlines all the difficulties he experienced. Count all the instances of “un-easiness” in our first reading of today’s Mass – it makes a rather uncomfortable litany. It could only have been borne by someone who steadfastly trusted in God – and therein lies our challenge. How do we face our difficulties? Do we trust in God or do we act as if God did not matter at all. I suggest that we end this self scrutiny by reading what St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. Read in a prayerful fashion the text of Romans 8:28-39. Accept the text as God’s word to the children he loves and thank him for his accompaniment on our life’s journey.

Let us pray: Father you never leave us alone. When we feel abandoned help us to remember that you are still in the same place you were when Jesus was on the cross. Give us the grace to seek you and to trust in you even when we cannot feel your presence. We ask this through Christ, who himself showed this trust. Amen.