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 July 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 July 2021. Freedom to love. Text for reflection – John 13:34-35.

I would like to start by praying for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa,
and help us to live in your peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;

For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

During this time of unrest, mistrust and now rebuilding, let us pray more often and more fervently.

The text I wish to comment on comes from the command Jesus gave us to love one another. I was reminded of this text through one of the intercessions (the third one) for the Church’s morning prayer for today viz. “Guide our thoughts, our words, our actions: so that what we do today may be pleasing to you.” 

How do we live out this intercession which we pray? The answer is that we live it out in our relationships with the neighbour. Our love of the neighbour does not exist in a vacuum nor in attractive sayings that one finds on greeting cards. It is a lot more practical, and in its essence, is what discipleship is all about. It is always embedded in a context and speaks to every occasion. What then is our context? Or to put it scripturally, what is the mood of this time (cf. Ecclesiastes 3)?

On 25 July 2021, President Ramaphosa announced an easing of the Lockdown restrictions. We moved from Level Four to Level Three. We now have greater freedom. But with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Freedom after all, is not freedom to do just anything – it is freedom to do the right thing. The right thing at this time is to exercise the Church’s teachings about being pro-life. In this regard, the text of Deuteronomy 30:15-20 is very significant. The very fact that we can now gather – albeit in limited numbers, does not mean that we are free to do as we like. In Christian terms we have to make sacrifice for the neighbour. 

Freedom without corresponding responsibility is not freedom simply because in the context of a pandemic it can lead to an uncontrolled spread of the virus which has now mutated into a rapidly transmissible and destructive force. The very fact that we can gather compels us to act with greater responsibility. Even with the restrictions, during the last week of Lockdown Level Four we have received reports of several infections among the laity and several priests have also tested positive. Mahatma Gandhi noted that: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Last week when I commented on our moral responsibility to keep the neighbour safe, I noted: “Accountability before God to whom our sacrifice is offered, is also accountability before the neighbour. The first question to fly into the face of the creator came from the murderous Cain: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And throughout the bible God’s answer is a definite ‘Yes – you are your brother’s keeper. You are your sister’s keeper’.”

When speaking of this time of infections, medical scientists have informed us that we are called to exercise responsibility now so that we can have a brighter future. With the increased roll out of the vaccine there is a sense of optimism – so it is not all doom and gloom. We do what we have to at this time so as to achieve liberation in the future. Jesus uses the analogy of suffering so as to achieve greater joy in John 16:21. In Matthew 22:37-39, he sums up the love of neighbour as a great commandment. It is after all by our love that we will be recognised as his disciples (cf. John 13:34-35). The word for love in this verse indicates a self sacrificial love lived out for the good of the neighbour.

Let us pray: Merciful God, right now we experience pain and suffering. We have no one but you to turn to for relief for ourselves and our loved ones. Send us your Spirit to teach us how to cope, so that we may keep ourselves and each other safe. Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Lord, above all give us the gifts of patience and perseverance. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town

Devotion to St Joseph with Fr Shaun Addinall

Pope Francis declared the Year of St Joseph, running from 8 December 2020 to 8 December 2021. This is a rare opportunity for us to focus on this great man who is often described as “standing in the shadows”. Joseph becomes our guide to visit the important moments of the life of Mary and the childhood of Jesus. Though operating in obscurity, Joseph leads us to a deeper understanding of Church, work, family, husband, fatherhood and prayer as we delve into some important aspects of his life. Every time we do we this have a refreshing encounter with who we are as Church in the world today. As this is also the Year of the Eucharist, Benediction forms an integral part of our devotions.

This year is an invitation by Pope Francis to celebrate St Joseph. It is an opportunity that the Church and the faithful should appropriate fully. 

Fr Shaun Addinall presents the sixth of the monthly reflections. It is titled: St Joseph the Family Man and will be livestreamed to Good Shepherd Bothasig YouTube channel on 3 August 2021 from 7.00 pm-7.30 pm. 

The livestream link is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnj6J2Sc_dW058_zPCSA4zw

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 July 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. Let’s start by praying the Prayer for Southern Africa:

O! God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

The Reading I have chosen for today is the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 13:44-46):

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it”.

In Chapter 13 of St Matthew’s Gospel there are a number of successive parables explaining the nature of the God’s Kingdom. St Matthew begins with the parable of the sower which is about those who “hear the word of the kingdom” but receive it in different ways, and then the parable of the weeds among the wheat. He compares the Kingdom to a mustard seed, to leaven (yeast) and to a net thrown into the sea to catch fish. The chapter ends with people rejecting him, saying “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son?” Jesus is amazed at their unbelief and notes that a prophet is not without honour except in his own country. We are told that he could do many mighty works there due to their unbelief.

The Kingdom of heaven, or as it is referred to in other places in the Scriptures, the Kingdom of God, is central to the life and mission of Jesus – he came to proclaim the kingdom, which he says is “at hand” (Matt 4:17). His preaching, teaching, miracles and his prayer are all oriented towards God’s Kingdom. For this reason, St John always refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs” and not as miracles, because he wishes us to understand that the mighty works Jesus performed were not to be understood merely as super natural events in the material realm (as amazing as they were). Rather, they all point and teach us about a much deeper reality of which they are merely the physical manifestation. We could even say that his miracles are sacramental. They point to the glory, majesty and power of God working through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are revelations of God and the promise of the restoration of Creation to its original beauty and innocence. They teach us of Jesus, “the light of the world” (John 8:12), of Jesus who is the “resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and that no-one can come to the Father except through him (John 14:6). The proclamation of the Kingdom is accompanied by the call to conversion, to repentance, to turn once more to God and away from all that is sin and does not belong to God. It is a call to righteousness which embodies justice, honesty, truth, uprightness, harmony and, above all, love.

The centrality of Jesus’ proclamation of God’s Kingdom is captured in the two parables we heard in the Gospel passage I started with – a man who finds a treasure in a field sells all he has to buy the field in order to obtain the treasure, and the man who finds a pearl of great worth and who also sells everything he has in order to purchase it. The point is clear – there is nothing more important for anyone than the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the greatest treasure we can ever hope to have. It is the purpose and meaning of our existence – we should be able to “sell everything we have” in order to obtain it, and allow nothing in life to impede us from attaining it. remembering how Christ gave everything on the Cross, allowing his life to be poured out, in order to break open the gates of the Kingdom and so to restore us to friendship with the Father.

The proclamation of the Kingdom demands a response from us, the first of which is repentance and conversion, an abandonment of all that does not belong to the Kingdom, and equally to repent of our failure to do the works that would enhance the growth of God’s Kingdom. The second is to ensure that the word of the Kingdom is assimilated in our hearts and lives, that we are no longer only “hearers” of the Word but also “doers” of the word (James 1:22). The most important of all responses is to recognize the hope which Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God offers to us. Despite all the evil in the world, and there is much evil, despite the hardships that we face personally and the anxieties we encounter, despite our lack of understanding, Jesus teaches us and assures us, that the Kingdom of God is at hand, it is in our midst and we belong to it. The goodness in the world may, at times, seem to be small (like a mustard seed) in the face of the darkness of evil, evil may seem to be triumphing over goodness (like the weeds among wheat), faith may seem to be dissipating or even disappearing (like the seed that falls on rocky ground or among thorns), but we await in hope for the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Revelation 21:1), of which we are already part and which already exists among us and is awaiting its final accomplishment.

Even in the dreadful looting and destruction that we witnessed recently in South Africa, there followed an outpouring of goodness as people turned out to clean up, to guard sensitive areas and to seek answers for and understanding of what had taken place. There has been a groundswell of concerned and good people calling for root causes to be identified and addressed, for the injustices of the inequality and poverty of our country to be recognized, and for the need to work for a true peace to be founded on the pillars of truth and justice. We may think that these “signs” are small in comparison, that they are, by and large, spoken about by mostly powerless people, but the signs – like the miracles of Jesus – indicate something far greater at work. God’s Spirit is working throughout the world.

This pandemic is and has been a horrible time for us. The socio-economic and political problems we face are enormous. But even in these horrible times we must see that they are part of the coming of God’s Kingdom and are leading us towards it, rather than happening in spite of God’s Kingdom. What we must ask ourselves is what we have to learn from the horribleness of the times, and what we must do to be instruments of God’s light in the darkness they have brought. So, far from giving in to despair, we face the present with hearts burning with the hope of God’s Kingdom and willing to persevere in being agents and instruments of God’s love and compassion in a world that is truly crying out in anguish for someone who cares.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Gracious and loving Father, you sent your only Son into the world to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to call mankind to conversion. Fill the hearts of your faithful with true repentance that they may receive the Kingdom of God within them. 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 23 July 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 23 July 2021.

Our concluding prayer at Mass this week reads as follows:
“Graciously be present to your people, we pray, O Lord,
and lead those you have imbued with heavenly mysteries
to pass from former ways to newness of life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

It is easy to go through the proper of the Mass in a routine way and so run the risk of not seeing what the Church has in mind for us. The concluding prayer for Mass this week reminds us that the sacraments (heavenly mysteries) work by transforming us. Rather than work magic in our lives, the Eucharist strengthens and transforms us to face the challenges which come our way. The prayer is for the Lord to lead us “from former ways to newness of life”. 

In concrete terms in our struggle against the Covid 19 pandemic we have to show a change of lifestyle. Christians are called to model the right behaviour by embracing all the restrictions that have been recommended to us in order to prevent loss of life. The best way in which I can show love to those around me is to keep them safe.

St Paul in dealing with the consequences for those who have been justified by Christ (cf. Romans 1:16-17) has this to say: “I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people. Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God what is good and acceptable and mature” (Romans 12:1-2).

The original text is most informative. Firstly, the offering of the bodies in Romans 12:1 has to be reasoned (translated as “sensible”) and not based on superstition, conspiracy theories and the like. Secondly, this is done collectively – in other words we do it with each other and for each other. Accountability before God to whom our sacrifice is offered, is also accountability before the neighbour. The first question to fly into the face of the creator came from the murderous Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And throughout the bible God’s answer is a definite “Yes – you are your brother’s keeper. You are your sister’s keeper”.

Romans 12:2 contains two imperatives – meaning that we cannot be Christian if we do not carry out these commands. Firstly we are asked not to model our behaviour on prevailing views. Secondly we are asked to let the renewing of our minds – in other words our conversion, transform us. So, we are not to conform to our favourite models but to transform ourselves. The NT term used to indicate this is the word from which we get the term “metamorphosis”. It refers to an authentic transformation. It is a genuine change willed by God. This means a revolution in terms of one’s behaviour so as to conform to the image of Christ. For the Christian this implies a tuning in to the action of the Spirit of God which dwells within. 

Our Archbishop’s call for us to experience a behaviour change in order to deal with Covid 19 is deeply rooted in Scripture.

Let us pray: Lord we turn to you in our need. Apart from the pandemic, we also suffer other struggles such as violence and hatred. We have seen the devastating effects of human greed but thankfully we also witness the greatness human kindness and endurance. Help us to practice the kind of behaviours which please you. May we offer ourselves in ways that are acceptable to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Visitors to the Archbishop

Archbishop Stephen Brislin would like to pay tribute to the following visitors to him at the Chancery.

The first photograph shows the Archbishop and Mr Antonio Rapisardi, assistant to the Consul General of Italy, who is now transferred to Albania. Mr Rapisardi has given great assistance to the Archdiocese during the years he was in Cape Town and has supported a number of projects to help those in need.

The second shows Bro Jordan Carelse OFM Cap and Bro Reece Heuvel SDB, both students for the priesthood who are doing 1st year philosophy in Zambia. They made a courtesy call to the Archbishop during their vacation time in South Africa.

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 July 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 today’s reflection. We will begin by praying the Prayer for Peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We make this prayer through Christ Our Lord, 
Amen.

For this reflection I have taken a few verses from the First Reading of today’s Mass:

…all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, “Would we have died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill the whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day…”

Recalling the Israelite’s time in the desert is helpful in these days of the Covid pandemic. Many of us feel that we are in a wilderness of confusion, frustration, loneliness, economic hardship and uncertainty. The road forward is not clear and is unmarked. The troubles we are going through in South Africa at this time have made things even worse. Like the Israelites, it is quite possible that we will go round in circles as we try to find the way. And like the Israelites, who longed for the fleshpots of Egypt even though they had been liberated from slavery, many of us long to “go back” to “normality”. We also speak of a “new normal” which holds out promise of some type of normality, just as the Israelites moved towards the promised land which promised milk and honey. Hopefully, unlike the Israelites’ experience, we will not have to endure forty years of the covid pandemic. In fact, we have good reason to hope that by this time next year we will not be as restricted as we are now and that much of the danger shall have passed.

It has been brought home to us many times that the “normality” of the past is gone for good – we are not going to return there. Perhaps, as time goes on, we will recognize that the so-called normality of yesteryear was not normal at all. Perhaps we will begin to see many abnormalities in the things that we took for granted and thought were normal. And perhaps in recognizing those abnormalities, we will be able to correct them for our benefit and the benefit of all, so that we grow as human beings.

The 40 years of the Israelites in the desert were not wasted years. It is in those years they learnt of God’s providence for them. He provided daily bread for them in the morning, and an evening meal of meat. They truly ate “bread from heaven”, the “bread of angels”. God quenched their thirst with water from the rock, as they drank from the well-spring which is God himself. In the desert they received the ten commandments, a blessing given to them by God, as we hear in Psalm 147 (vv19-20), He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. In other words, they learnt what pleased God, and how they were to live in order to respect both God and the rights of their neighbour. In the desert they learnt repentance after their unfaithful hearts had sought a false god, and they experiences the forgiveness of the Lord. They had to contend with the bites of snakes as a consequence of their lack of gratitude and their mumbling and grumbling against God and his servant Moses. In facing the might of other nations, they learnt to overcome their fear and to courageously abide by what God told them to do – it took a long time but they reached the promised land in the end, better peple for the time spent in the desert.

Our time during our journey through the wilderness brought on by the pandemic should also help us to reflect deeply on God’s presence. Just as he never deserted his people Israel and, in fact, was the one (through Moses) leading them to the promised land, so we are not deserted by God today. We must have the faith that he is leading us to a place or state of life that is better and more “normal” than the one we’ve had until now. This is a time to reflect with gratitude on God’s providence for us – yes, we are enduring hardship and uncertainty, and yet we have so much to be grateful for. We can long for those things we don’t have, we can long for the good times of the past – but wouldn’t it be time better spent to be grateful for the good times of the past, and to be satisfied with what we have now. It might not be the “fleshpots”, so to speak, but we are blessed and are beneficiaries of God’s bountiful generosity.

It is a time to reflect and accept the need to repent, just as the Israelites had to learn that hard lesson, for the times when we have gone after “false gods”. The “false gods” are those times when the values we live by are distorted and disfigured from the will of God. We know all the “right” values, we can talk about them. But what are the values that we have been living by and that have been determining how we live our lives. What are the values that I want to live by in my life – and do they correspond to the 10 commandments and, most importantly, to the commandment given to us by Jesus, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love my neighbour as myself. In short, what can I learn to become a better person and a more sincere and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? If we don’t ask these questions, our time in this Covid 19 desert will be wasted.

It is hard. It’s understandable if you feel insecure, frustrated, anxious. You are not alone – we are all experiencing these negative consequences to some extent or another. Most importantly, you are not alone because Christ, the rock that followed the Israelites and quenched their thirst in the desert(1Cor 10:4), is still with us so that we can draw from the deep well-springs of his grace. It is hard because we are separated from the physical reception of the “bread of angels”, our daily manna, Holy Communion. And yet, Christ continues to nourish us and comes to us spiritually. Through our faith, he gives us the resilience to walk this journey, always conscious of the hope of the dawn of a new day that he will open before us. In the meantime, we journey together, as his people, supporting and accompanying each other, learning to be grateful and resisting the temptation to complain.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Bestow your peace on our country, O Lord, and protect us from all harm, that we may seek to serve you through serving our neighbour and may glorify your name by walking the paths of truth and justice. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

Homily from Archbishop Stephen Brislin

In the wake of the recent destruction and looting that has happened in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, Archbishop Stephen Brislin shares his homily for this Sunday 18th July 2021.

In the First Reading of today’s Mass we heard these opening words from the Prophet Jeremiah: ‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!’ says the Lord. The leaders of Israel, to whom these words were addressed, failed the people they were meant to lead. Furthermore, they failed God who entrusted them with the responsibility of leadership.

Human life is relational – in other words, the quality and meaning of our lives is to be found in relation to other people and, of course, in relation to God. To be fully human can only be achieved when we are in harmonious and fulfilling relationships, whether it be with a significant loved one, family, friends, the community in which we live and work. In the words of Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, “man is the more himself the more he is with ‘the other’”. I cannot be my true self by myself. Jesus has also taught us that there is an inseparable link between love of neighbour and love of God. The Old Testament writers used the image of a shepherd and the flock in order to convey this truth. The shepherd is meant to guard and protect the flock, to take it to green pastures and fresh waters, he is meant to ensure its nourishment and well-being. He is meant to love the sheep and care for them, to seek out the lost, bandage the injured and ensure that the flock stays together. Leaders are meant to be like shepherds, to have the well-being of the whole flock at heart, to promote unity and togetherness. In short, to ensure that relationships with others are maintained and respected, through order and fairness. 

There is a responsibility on all of us to have the heart of a shepherd. A father or a mother is meant to have the heart of a shepherd for the family, and employer for the employees, older siblings for younger ones, the influential for the marginalized, the rich for the struggling. Again, in short, if we are to reach our potential as human beings, and most certainly if we wish to live a Christian life, we must have a heart for each other – not only those we like, but for all, simply because they are human.

In the light of this, what is happening in South Africa today is appalling and destructive not only of lives, livelihoods and property. It is also destructive of the soul of our humanity. We have witnessed almost unbelievable scenes which have shocked us and left us stunned. Looters have stolen and destroyed, lives have been lost, hundreds – if not thousands – of jobs have been lost, livelihoods wiped out. Many, many have suffered, but ultimately it will inevitably be the poor who suffer the most. There are many factors which have contributed to this violence and lawlessness, primarily poverty and the enormous gap that exists in our country between the rich and the poor. We have known for many years that this stark inequality is unsustainable, it is powder keg that has been waiting for the spark to cause it to explode. The frustration of our present circumstances in terms of the Covid Pandemic, the lockdown and the hardships that so many people have experienced, has exacerbated and lent fuel to the violence we have witnessed. Corrupt leaders, over many years, have scattered their seeds of corruption widely, seemingly with impunity, which has given rise to a culture of presumed impunity. Many people, who are otherwise law-abiding, have been caught up in the mob looting. There are those who have incited and encouraged the violence and, perhaps, even some who have masterminded and orchestrated it. If there are those who masterminded it they, more than all the others who have been involved, are responsible for doing enormous damage to our fragile democracy and economy. If there are such people who have planned and executed this, they have acted selfishly presumably for their own self-preservation, with no regard for the good of the country and its people. They particularly must be called to account and punished appropriately for their actions. 

Today, we pray for peace. We pray for an end to this violence and destruction. We pray that those who have hidden their faces and used and manipulated others, will be exposed and made responsible. We pray that all will develop a heart of a shepherd, a heart that cares for others, is concerned about them and which wants their wellbeing.

Today we pray for peace, but we are also aware that it is incumbent on us to work for peace. We work for peace by building a just and equitable society. In the end, the way to peace is not through arresting more and more people, building bigger prisons or meeting violence with violence. The way to a true and lasting peace is to build a society in which people have a share in the prosperity of their country, where they can work in order to support their families, a society in which their children will have opportunities for education and for a better future, a society in which there are not two parallel worlds living side by side but in which we stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with each other. A peaceful society will only be attained when people have their fair share, and so will not live in poverty and neither will they live in obscene luxury through exploitation, corruption and self-interest. 

Today we pray for peace, but let us also have the heart of a shepherd to commit our lives to work for peace, knowing that we all have a responsibility for the good of our country and all its citizens. We cannot close our eyes to the needs of our neighbour – if for no other reason,to do so would be to follow a path of instability and insecurity. We know that to follow the path to true and lasting peace means a change of heart – a change of our own hearts, but also forming children and young people to have a shepherd’s heart through living ethical values. We can teach children maths, science, geography and commerce – rightly so. But learning to be human demands far more than such lessons. It demands that we are formed in moral living, of mutual respect, of knowing how to share, of solidarity, a sense of justice, truthfulness and honesty. We must help them to learn to live a life of sacrificial love and service to God and neighbour. We must question many structures of our society to assess whether they are conveying and imparting such values.

Today we pray for peace. And I invite all of you, with your families if possible, to pray the rosary today for the sake of peace. On a Sunday we pray the glorious mysteries which inspire such light and hope in our lives. Pray the rosary today and let us seek the intercession of our Patroness, Our Lady Assumed into Heaven, that the violence of destruction, the violence of malevolence, the violence of poverty and all the other forms of violence will come to an end. In this very serious situation, with humility, we turn to our Saviour, the Good Shepherd, and we ask him to bless our country, our leaders and all the people of our nation, that there may be peace. If, for some reason, you cannot pray the rosary today, please make sure that you pray it tomorrow or as soon as possible. We need the prayers of each and every one of you. May God bless you and your families, and may he keep you safe from all harm.

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 July 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 16 July 2021. 

South Africa and Eswatini are up in flames and I want to start this reflection with the prayer for peace in Southern Africa.

Prayer for peace in Southern Africa

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, 
and help us to live in your peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

During this time of unrest, let us pray more often and more fervently.

Matthew 12:1-8. Jesus, Master of the Sabbath.

In our Gospel passage for today’s Mass we see a clear difference between genuine faith and religious superstition. The fault finding tendency of the Pharisees is exposed and in its place the mercy of God is proposed as a way to genuinely please the Lord and fulfil the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. 

A simple test as to how I keep the Sabbath, is to see who is the Lord of my Sabbath. Is it Jesus? Or is it motivated by material possessions and lauding it over others? Does my Sabbath reflect the values of Jesus? In our Gospel passage for today’s Mass, the Pharisees with their law and order mentality make their uncomfortable presence felt yet again. Isn’t it amazing that the devils knew who Jesus was (Mark 1:24; 34) and these holy people who knew the catechism of their day failed to recognize him as Lord of the Sabbath? 

Jesus teaches them the supreme lesson: that God desires mercy not sacrifice (Matthew 12:7). King Saul had to learn this lesson (1 Samuel 15:22) and Hosea – the prophet who depicts God’s mercy to a sinful nation, shows this attribute of God in the face of Israel’s insincere repentance (cf. Hosea 6:6). True religion comprises mercy and not lists of “what-to-do” and “what-not-to-do”. God’s demand is for mercy rather than sacrifice but we often insist on having things the other way around. We prefer to get our pound of flesh no matter what. God’s attitude is so different. To the extent that we are motivated by God’s logic our demands on others will also be different. Children know this instinctively. When two children are playing and the older child is teaching the younger one the rules of the game, whenever the younger one transgresses the older child says: ‘That one won’t count – let’s start again’ and will continue to do this until the younger one learns the game. That is how God treats us: ‘that one won’t count – let’s start again’. 

God desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6). To the extent that I can practice mercy I can consider myself as someone who imitates God (cf. Luke 6:36). This is not an optional extra – it is a Gospel demand. What is mercy? It is an essential component of the divine makeup. Take away mercy from the attributes of God and what we have is not the Father of Jesus but an imposter who insists on fault finding and nit picking. We can change ideas of who God is by imitating him and bringing genuine values into our lives and homes. This we do by practicing the virtuous life of patience, forgiveness, truth telling, piety, justice, generosity, forbearance, etc. Of the many New Testament texts calling us to give a human face to the space occupied by human beings, I’d like to refer you to Galatians 6:1-10. Read it, digest it and let us all put it into practice. In that way we can be sure that our religion is genuine.

Let us pray: Lord, you have taught us to be merciful and to imitate your merciful heart. Fill us with your Spirit so that we may rightfully call you Abba-Father because we reflect your image in our lives. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI 
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town

Catholic Bishops call for an end to violence and looting

As we join other Religious Leaders in calling for calm, we wish to draw attention to the caution by Pope Francis during his visit to Mozambique in 2019 that, sometimes, it takes small steps of violence for a nation to descend into full-fledged anarchy, an endless spiral of violence and massive bloodshed. The Pope said: “No family, no group of neighbours or ethnic group and even less – no country has a future if the motor that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is composed of violence and vengeance.” (Pope Francis, 2 September 2019). 

Presently, certain parts of our country, namely, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng are engulfed by violence and looting that started off as protest against the incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma, with fear that this might spread wider. Let us not allow the difference of opinion on political matters to be hijacked by criminal intentions to create anarchy in our country that will result in a worse social and economic situation than we presently find ourselves in. 

We condemn in strong terms the glaring criminal elements that are taking advantage of this situation. We call upon individuals who are involved in vandalism and thuggery to give a thought to the livelihood of many people that they are jeopardising by destroying their places of employment. We must also remember that we are in the height of a Covid-19 pandemic that thrives in the conditions of disorder that we see, and that the longer these conditions prevail, the more we put ourselves and others in danger of infection that will be difficult to deal with. 

To those who incite this violence and looting for political ends, we call upon them to rise above political interests, to protect life and to preserve the common good. Eventually, it was dialogue and not violence that brought us to the present democratic dispensation. As we navigate some difficult routes of this democratic journey let us continue to choose the path of dialogue to settle our differences as brothers and sisters, united by the love of our country and the desire for its prosperity for the good of all who reside and work in it. The path of dialogue is long and arduous, but it is the only one that can help us to “keep our attention focused, to penetrate to the heart of matters, and to recognize what is essential” (Fratelli Tutti 50). 

We also realize that the current crisis is due in no small measure to extreme economic inequalities as well as economic hardships suffered by the poor during the pandemic. These are issues that our government, business and the corporate sector over the years have failed to address in a comprehensive manner. What started off as difference of opinion has sparked off a wildfire of violence and looting because the “dry grass” of poverty has been left to “overgrow” over decades. A big contributing factor to this “dry grass” of poverty is the lack of efficient leadership in government and unethical practices in business. We call for a return to efficient leadership at all levels of government that will see service being delivered to the people and business enabling all to participate meaningfully in the economic system.

Our society has normalized the use of violence and vandalism to get the government to listen and be serious in addressing economic concerns of the poor. We need a shift in mind-set, a collective conversion of heart and mind, which affirms that violent protests and destruction of property can never be a just response to the current economic hardships and economic injustice. We reiterate Pope Francis’ call in Fratelli Tutti, reminding all that: in the face of political and economic problems there is always a possibility of choosing constructive engagement over violence. 

As many people in our country continue to suffer because of business collapse, job losses and other impacts of the pandemic, may the Lord grant our nation “politicians (and businesspeople) who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, (and) the lives of the poor” (Pope Francis, 01 May 2013). In these tempting times for violence, we invite all to make a choice for life which will manifest in a desire to “co-operate, build and dialogue, pardon, grow, respect sacredness of life, the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all” (FT 285). 

+Sithembele Sipuka 
Bishop of Mthatha and SACBC President 

Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference 
Khanya House, 129 Main Street, Waterkloof, 0181 Pretoria; P.O. Box 941, Pretoria 0001, South Africa. Tel: +27 (12) 323 6458, Fax: +27 (12) 326 6218, E-mail: sacbcgen@sacbc.org.za