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 

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 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.

Peace and blessings on you. It is with great sadness that I greet you today, considering what is happening in our country at this time, and what has happened recently in eSwatini. We must all pray for peace and work for peace. Those who are putting the lives and livelihoods of others at risk, must desist. They are throwing the country deeper into poverty and hardship for ordinary people. While we must identify and eradicate the root causes of what is happening, there can be no excuse for the looting and violence. Those who are inciting people to violence must be brought to account for their actions and held responsible. 

Please join me now in a prayer for peace:

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. Through Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Welcome to this reflection. In the First Reading of today’s Mass (Exodus 3:1-6,9-12) we hear of Moses’ encounter with the Lord in the burning bush. Moses wanted a closer look at this strange and wondrous sight – a bush burning but not being consumed by the fire. This is what we hear next:

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here am I”. Then he said, “Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground”. And then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have seen the affliction of my people…”

Moses had been on the run after killing an Egyptian who had been beating a Hebrew, one of Moses’ own people, and he had fled to the land of Midian. He had witnessed the injustice done to his people in Egypt and this had given rise to a burning passion within him which resulted in the killing of the Egyptian. Now, when he encounters the Divine in the burning bush, a fire lights up again in his heart when he hears the Lord say “I have seen the affliction of my people”, “I know their sufferings”. The experience of the burning bush empowers him to take a stand and to respond to the deep impulse that was already in him to do something about the suffering of the Israelites. He is still afraid, he fears the unknown, he is filled with self-doubt and feels inadequate. In fact, the lack of confidence will remain with him throughout. Nonetheless, he takes action. Despite being wanted for murder, he returns to Egypt, despite his self-doubt he approaches Pharaoh and demands the liberation of his people. Even though fearful he perseveres despite frustration and the cruelty inflicted on the Israelites by Pharaoh in retaliation to Moses’ demands for liberation. The experience of the burning bush changed his life, transformed him, not by removing his sense of inadequacy and his fear, but by liberating him from their power.

There are many things that can be said about this experience and the meaning of the burning bush, but I would like to speak of only three. Firstly, I think it is true to say, that the encounter with the Divine helped Moses recognize something that was already in himself. He had witnessed the injustice meted out to the Jews and he wanted to do something about it, but at the same time he fled from doing anything through fear and anxiety. His flight from Egypt was not only a geographical flight, it was also fleeing from something he knew he should be doing but was too afraid to do – he tried to deny the burning thirst for justice and to suppress it. This gives rise to the question that we all need to ask ourselves: Do I feel a stirring in my heart about something good I should be doing, but I’m not doing anything about it? Do I see an injustice but am not doing anything about it?” Sometimes we let fear, lethargy and self-doubt get in the way and we land up doing nothing. The encounter with the Divine lets us see what we already have in our hearts but also that we need to untie the knots that are preventing us from doing something.

Secondly, when Moses approached the burning bush, he was warned by the Lord to remove his shoes for he was standing on holy ground; he was also afraid to look at God and covered is face. This gives rise to two questions. Do we have a deep sense of the sacred and the sacredness of God? There are times when we can take God for granted and we become over familiar with him. It is interesting that in the New Testament, after Jesus had risen from dead, when he appeared to his apostles he would have to say “do not be afraid” and similarly he would greet them with words of peace. The disciples had developed a great sense of awe and recognized the power of Jesus as Lord of the Cosmos and that he sits on the right hand of the Father “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and has put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:21-22). God is mystery and we must approach the sacredness of God with humility, respect and a deep awe. This sense of mystery will enable us to respect the presence of God in his Word, in his Sacraments and, indeed, the mysterious presence of God in our neighbour. The second question we must answer in this regard, is what must we put off (what are the shoes we must take off) in the presence of the Sacred. In other words, what changes must I make in my life to remove those things which do not belong to God and are contrary to the Gospel

Thirdly, despite his awe and fear, there is something that pulls Moses to the bush – he is drawn to it. It causes us to remember the words of Jesus, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:44). Being “drawn to God” is itself God’s gift. When we are given this gift, as indeed we have been, we must be sure that our hearts are open to receive it, and our will is ready to respond to it. As with Moses, we feel the attraction from God, we feel that we are being drawn by God. At such times, we cannot shrink back in fear, or be too comfortable in our present lifestyle that we draw back rather than be drawn to God. By having the crucified Christ before our eyes at all times of our life we will be drawn to God. Jesus himself said, …and I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself (John 12:32).

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Help us, Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Mary ever-virgin, to untie the knots that bind us and prevent us from being the people we are called to be, so that we will be truly free and enjoy the peace that only you can give. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

Statement on the violence by the Jesuit Institute

“WHOLESALE DESTRUCTION MOCKS LIBERTY”

Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways!

(Proverbs 3:31)

The continued and escalating violence in South Africa is of grave concern. Violence always begets more violence. Violence causes immediate and long-term suffering to all and will not address the pertinent issues that need to be urgently addressed in this country. 

South Africa has long been on a precipice. What we witness is symptomatic of a number of factors that cannot be ignored. The country’s tragic history, endemic corruption, political infighting, moral decay, disregard for the law, and the unfavourable global economic conditions, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are among them. However, the burning, looting and destruction of property will not bring about change, it will deepen the crisis. 

The words of the great prophet and champion of the oppressed of last century, Salvadorian Archbishop, Oscar Romero, ring true and are pertinent now:

“I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country… All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally.”

The Jesuit Institute South Africa urges those involved in violence to stop immediately. It is our own brothers and sisters that we are harming, not the elites or political tricksters who live securely and are shielded from the violence and destruction. They are not affected; they do not suffer. We appeal to you: stop the violence for your own sakes!

Furthermore, we urge that:

·      Politicians from all persuasions stop using this crisis to manipulate people by spewing irresponsible comments and incitements in the media and on social media. You are not showing leadership by being politically expedient and this incitement must be condemned.

·      Those who are inciting people on social media must be held accountable. Social media platforms have the moral responsibility to monitor incitement.

·      There is a return to the rule of law and right processes respected, namely, the Constitution, and the judicial system.

·      Religious leaders, address your followers, and offer direction in this time of crisis

·      The high levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment are not “addressed” but acted upon in a concrete manner.

·      That corruption is dealt with decisively. South Africans are tired of empty promises. Corruption has to be stamped out because this is a strong ingredient in the current crisis.

“The cause of liberty becomes a mockery if the price to be paid is the wholesale destruction of those who are to enjoy liberty” wrote the Trappist monk, theologian and social activist, Thomas Merton. 

The liberty of all is threatened if South Africa responds to the massive challenges we face on the current violent trajectory. Our hard fought for democracy is at stake and will lead to the wholesale destruction of this land. The civil anarchy and mayhem must end. We appeal to all South Africans to stop the violence. Serious problems afflict us, this is undeniable, but violence will never move us forward. 

ENDS

For more information: 
Dr Anthony Egan SJ: 072 938 4553 or a.egan@jesuitinstitute.org.za
Fr Russell Pollitt SJ: 082 737 2054 or director@jesuitinstitute.org.za

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 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.

Gospel passage – Matthew 10:16-23

I want to comment on one verse (Matthew 10:16) of the Gospel passage but prior to doing that I want to recommend a reading of the “Joseph Cycle” in the book of Genesis i.e. from Chapter 37 to the end of the book. It is about sibling rivalry, jealousy, forgiveness and family reunion. It is about pent-up emotion and the relief that comes with floods of tears – giving credibility to the observation of St Oscar Romero that some realities can only be seen by eyes which have shed tears. I resist the temptation to say more as that will rob you of the meaning that will come from your own engagement with the text.

Okay, now for Matthew 10:16 – “Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as snakes and yet innocent as doves.” This is the commissioning of the twelve and Jesus immediately speaks of the difficulties associated with following him. This is remarkable as when organisations want to attract people they hold out before them the many perks associated with the job. The logic of Jesus is different. The analogy of sheep among wolves is quite powerful as wolves have a reputation for tearing sheep apart and feasting on their flesh. This was a constant threat to the sheepfolds of first century Palestine. What Jesus is saying in essence is that discipleship is associated with deep inner strength. It is not meant for cowards. Later on Paul was to say that the spirit given to the Christian is not a spirit of timidity but of love and fortitude (2 Timothy 1:7). The word translated “timidity” also means cowardice. This is the tradition in which we stand and the history of the Church shows a rich tapestry of fortitude. Think of St Maximilian Kolbe, Bl. Josef Cebula, Bl. Benedict Daswa, St Kizito and a host of other courageous witnesses.

Jesus also gives advice on how to negotiate the difficulties associated with following him: “so be cunning as snakes and yet innocent as doves”. The word for cunning in the original text means “wise” or “prudent”. What is the wisdom of the serpent? If one observes a serpent, one will notice that it will do anything to protect its head – even being prepared to lose a part of its tail. When it gets into its lair, it immediately turns around so that the head faces the opening. This is not to watch the news of who is going by. It is a defensive strategy so that it could strike at any threat. The disciple is called to imitate this innate wisdom of the snake and to protect the integrity of the head of the Body. It is an invitation not to bring shame upon the face of Christ as that weakens the Body of Christ. We bring shame when we fail to give expression to lives we are meant to live and choose instead the way of dishonesty and compromise.

The word translated “innocent” as in innocent or gentle as doves means pure, unadulterated and untainted. This is an invitation not to imitate the aggressor and not to exact revenge. We see this in nature when flowers give off their delightful fragrance even while they are being cut down. This is exactly what Jesus did when he was murdered. He did not curse his aggressors but prayed for their forgiveness. This was perhaps the most serious lesson he taught. After he suffered every blow that could ever be laid on the innocent and after having endured every insult that human cruelty could muster, from the pulpit of the cross he preached his message: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). They knew exactly what they were doing. Mark 3:6 makes that clear. What Jesus did from his cross was to appeal for them to be shown mercy. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us about genuine love which bears all things and constantly seeks the good of others.

Jesus sends us out like lambs among wolves. He himself was led like a lamb to the slaughter. The characterisation of the suffering servant in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 is seen in his life and salvific death. As the NT puts it: “by his stripes we are healed” (1 Peter 2:24). In Matthew 10:16 he is not asking us to do anything that he himself would not do. Rather he offers us a chance to participate in his mission – in other words to have union with him.

Let us pray: Father through his innocence your Son saved us. We humbly ask that you purify our motives, forgive us and help us to recover our innocence so that we participate more fully in his life, death and resurrection. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.