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