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.

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 7 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.

I trust and pray that you are observing all the health protocols that will help us manage the Covid 19 virus. As I’ve mentioned many times before, some of the precautions we are asked to take can be annoying and a nuisance, but they are necessary, and ultimately simple to comply with. Welcome to this reflection. I have taken a passage from the First Reading of today’s Mass (Genesis 41:55-57, 42:5-7,17-24).

When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.’ So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Let us pray:

Father, source of all goodness, you nourish us and care for us in every aspect of our lives. You transform hardships and crises into blessings and new beginnings. Strengthen us to place our trust in you even in the most difficult times when things are darkest.  We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

The story of Joseph is well known to all of us. He was a man of dreams, much favoured by his father Jacob to the annoyance of his brothers, who experienced the discontent of the most torturous of sins, namely envy. It was that burning jealousy that drove them to plot to kill Joseph, but eventually they sold him as a slave – despite the fact that they knew it was a betrayal of their father and that his heart would be broken; it was also a betrayal of their “older brother” responsibility to protect and care for the younger siblings. Joseph landed up in Egypt and also in prison, after he resisted the charms of his master’s wife who tried to seduce him. It was an insult that caused her to seek revenge and ensure that he paid for the snub. All turns out well, of course. Joseph is able to interpret a dream of Pharaoh and is released from prison and given high honour and authority. He is united with his brothers, and eventually with his father when the whole family join the queues of migrants who seek relief from famine and a better life in Egypt. The whole event becomes the forerunner of the salvific Exodus and the deliverance of God’s people.

It is a story of sin and betrayal. As Bishop Sylvester said in his reflection of last Friday, even the best of families have their struggles and quarrels. Jacob was a man chosen by God, his sons would be the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel – but they were also sinners par excellence, who showed great cruelty to their father by telling him that Jospeh was dead, who ate and drank ignoring the pleas of Joseph for mercy and, for money, condemned him to a life of hardship and pain. They then lived their lives keeping this dark secret in their hearts which must have continued to poison their souls.

While we should not romanticize and try to remove the very real and grave sin from this account, it is – in fact – an encouraging and hope-filled insight into the nature of God and his activity in the world. Living in these Covid times we need that encouragement and hope, because like Joseph when he was in slavery, many people are experiencing hopelessness and desolation. For Joseph, the fact that he was separated from his family, that it was his very flesh and blood that had sold him, and that he had to endure a life of slavery, must have caused despair at times. He would have thought himself condemned to that life for the rest of his years. He did not abandon his faith in God, nor did he give up. In time, God transformed all that pain, suffering, loneliness, desolation, darkness and hardship into something good – not only good for Joseph, but good for the Biblical world of the time. Joseph’s understanding of Pharaoh’s dream, and his rise to “power” in administering the Egyptian stores of grain, made him instrumental in saving the world of his time. Impoverished, drought-stricken countries found relief in Egypt because God had transformed Joseph’s life and inspired him. How we pray, and long for, God’s transformation of our present times, that the bitter struggles and frustrations we experience may be changed into something good and beneficial for people. It is our trust that God will do this. But we cannot just leave it to God. Like Joseph, we do not give up, we do not despair, we do not lose faith and we do not allow the darkness to smother our hope. Furthermore, we cultivate and maintain a positive attitude and consciously seek ways of finding good that we can do in these difficult circumstances.

The story of Joseph’s life also encourages us for another reason. Those who found new hope and salvation from God through Joseph included the family of Joseph who had sinned so grievously against him. His willingness to embrace his brothers, after putting them to the test, conveys the dignity and transformative nature of forgiveness. The family was restored, harmonious relationships were re-established, and the dark cloud that must have hung over the brothers was lifted. It is a sign of the unconditional love and compassion of God who is always prepared to forgive those who repent. No matter how burdened we are by guilt because of whatever sins we may have committed, in God we find the abundance of forgiveness which restores us to wholeness.

Finally, these events remind us, too, that there is no such thing as a perfect family – even Jesus’ family had their share of pain. As Bishop Sylvester pointed out, even those especially chosen by God for a special cause experienced the struggles of life in their families. With all the pain that we encounter in the family, coming to us from all sorts of angles, for the disappointments, the hurts, the dysfunction at times, we don’t give up on family, because family is family and it is our place of belonging, of acceptance, of solace and support. Forgiveness is continually needed, sometimes things don’t work out and there is a break-up, but whatever happens we must strive to keep together the family we have no matter how imperfect or far from the “ideal” it may be. Give thanks to God for your family, pray that he may heal what needs healing and that he may keep you together with a love that transcends the imperfections and, to use one of Pope Francis’ favourite words, the “messiness”, of the situations we sometimes find ourselves in.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Lift the burdens on the shoulders of your people, Lord, and lighten their yoke, that they may always rejoice in your love and cherish the peace that you alone can give. 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 2 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 on the first reading of today’s Mass (Genesis 23:1-4,19; 24:1-8,62-67).

The Old Testament is fascinating and filled with literary gems which fire up the imagination. The narratives are constructed in such a way as to draw the reader into the world created by the text – a forgotten art in these days of instant messaging and shortened formatting of messages. The idea for the bible reader is not so much to resolve issues as it is to live in the world created by the text and through that process to negotiate the struggles we experience in our present situations. Sometimes, when reading the text one has to contend with non resolution for such is the nature of mystery. At other times, one is consoled – but all the while the Bible reading nourishes our faith life. And so, as I normally do in these reflections, I encourage you to read the text which the Church gives to us for our growth in faith.

Our reading for today is a selection of verses from two chapters of Genesis. The reading starts with the death of one matriarch (Sarah) and ends with the arrival of another matriarch (Rebecca). In between we see Abraham the man of faith negotiating a burial plot for his deceased wife. This is an exercise in external relations which seem so remote on today’s international stage. Abraham, who is held up as a model of faith and obedience, expresses his insufficiency to foreigners – the sons of Heth, a descendant of Noah, and whose name means the one whom God has strengthened. He is appropriately named as he uses his strength to console a stranger. It is important to note that the reading presents Abraham as having been blessed by God in every way (Genesis 24:1) – and yet this blessed man was not self absorbed in any way. In Genesis 23:5ff we see the humility of this patriarch. He acknowledges his dependency and also the sovereignty of those he negotiates with. If only this model of dealing with neighbours in today’s world could be practiced, we will have fewer wars, quarrels and the trading of insults.

Another negotiation in the text is the finding of a wife for Isaac. Once again, decency and extreme hospitality prevail. Laban – the brother of Rebecca, discerns that this is the way of the Lord (Genesis 24:50) and hence no interference can hinder it. Rebecca’s name is significant. It means ‘to tie firmly’ and also ‘to ensnare’. Later in the text (cf. Genesis 27) she will dupe Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing his elder brother Esau was entitled to. This was not duplicity on her part – it was a mere acting out of what had been revealed to her by God in Genesis 25:23. The matriarch was not passive, but was an active agent in bringing about God’s plan. The younger receiving the benefit of the elder is a famous theme in the Bible and shows that God works through the small and the humble. We see this clearly in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). It is interesting in our story for today that the name of the well (Lahai Roi) is: “the well of the one who lives and sees me”. The indication is that God witnesses the negotiation – lending credibility to the well worn saying that marriages are made in heaven.

Once again the story helps us to understand the struggle for power even between siblings (cf. Genesis 25:22-23). Even in the chosen patriarchal family there was struggle. However through negotiation rather than avoidance, denial and the generation of false narratives; God’s purpose is achieved. The promise God made to Abraham is set to continue. The call and response dialogue indicates that entitlement theories are foreign to the missionary spirit in the Bible as Abraham purchased a burial plot on foreign soil. He must have been grateful that the Canaanites did not put up a wall to keep the neighbours out. Biblical neighbourliness demands acceptance of otherness. South Africa comprises a mosaic of different cultures and creeds and where the rights of any group are trampled on or cancelled, it makes for extreme unhappiness and causes immeasurable suffering. But where the spirit of unbuntu is practiced we see humanity at its absolute best. For those who are not South African ubuntu comes from our national lexicon and is a term which refers to the qualities of compassion and neighbourliness. Nelson Mandela is a prime example of someone who embodied this spirit.

Let us pray: Lord, from the beginning the Bible testifies to hospitality and the acceptance of otherness. Help us to embrace these values so that lasting peace may endure. Your Son himself became refugee in a foreign land when the murderous Herod planned his assault on innocence. Help us to treat all your children as brothers and sisters whom you love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotion to St Joseph with Fr Rui Henriques

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 Rui Henriques presents the fifth of the monthly reflections. It is titled: St Joseph the Husband of Mary and will be livestreamed to Good Shepherd Bothasig YouTube channel on 6 July 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 30 June 2021, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Peace and blessings to all of you. On Monday I had my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine. It was an easy and efficient process and the staff were extraordinarily helpful and caring. I hope that, it you are over 60, you are registered and that you will have the vaccine. It is really important for all of us to do so. Thank you for joining me for this reflection. The love of Jesus, as his Sacred Heart reminds us, is a liberating love that frees us from fear, sin and eternal death. In the Gospel Reading of today’s Mass (Matthew 8:28-34), we hear the remarkable account of the two demoniacs who recognized Jesus and asked him “What have you to do with us?” They requested that if he was to cast them out that it be into a herd of pigs. He acceded to their request and the pigs rushed into the water and drowned. This is what happened next:

The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs, and behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighbourhood.

Let us pray:

All powerful God, cast far from us everything that binds us and prevents us from following your Son, Jesus, with a fully free and generous heart.  We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

This event of the casting out of these demons is remarkable for a number of reasons. The demons recognize Jesus and his power – in many other situations those who encountered Jesus did not recognize him for who he was. It is the demons who address Jesus directly and they raise the issue of being cast out – in most other miracles it is the afflicted person who pleads for healing, or others who intercede on the person’s behalf. But that is not the case in this miracle. The demons make the cryptic comment, have you come to torment us before our time? Presumably, the forces of evil believe that they have full sway on earth until the end of time. Then, the demons are brave enough to make a request of Jesus – that they be cast into the herd of swine – and, surprisingly, he grants what they ask. One may well feel sorry for the pigs that then embarked on a mass suicide and, indeed, for their owners who could not have been too pleased about the loss of their herd. And what were pigs doing there in the first place? They were considered to be unclean animals and their meat not to be touched.

Most remarkable was the response of the citizens of that city. They came out en masse and were united in begging Jesus to leave their neighbourhood. There was not a word of gratitude that the two demoniacs – who were so fierce that nobody could pass their residence in the tombs where they lived among he dead – were liberated from the demonic power and, presumably, everyone would now be free to pass there without fear.

And yet, their desire to get rid of Jesus is understandable in a way. In ch 8 of Matthew’s Gospel, this miracle is in the context of a variety of miracles: Jesus cured a leper, he healed the centurion’s servant and Peter’s mother-in-law, there were a number of other healings and casting out of devils without any details given. He had calmed the storm at sea in response to his disciples’ plea “save us, Lord, we are going down”. All these miracles demonstrate the enormous power of Jesus. He had power over what is unclean, he has power over disease, he commands the winds and the sea and, yes, he has authority and power over evil and demons. He is “all powerful” over the world, the universe and the cosmos. We can surely understand that for these citizens to hear the account of such power was frightening. It is just a pity that they did not take time to get to know Jesus better, for they would have recognized that his power was the power of perfect love, gentleness and forgiveness.

Even for ourselves, Jesus can be frightening. The more we encounter him and allow his light to enter deeper into our being, the more we see ourselves as we are – and it is not always pleasant when the excuses, the rose-coloured spectacles and the images we have made for ourselves are stripped away. Perhaps our greatest fear, as we encounter Jesus more and more, is that we will have to change, to leave our comfort zones and the habits we have grown accustomed to and which make us feel safe and secure. It is no wonder that at times it is “safer” to relegate Jesus to be closed up in the tabernacle or to going to Mass on Sundays with a few prayers during the week. Among the miracles recounted in chapter 8 of St Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples that there is a cost to discipleship” “foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”, and “leave the dead to bury the dead”. Perhaps it is this innate fear of what Jesus may ask of us, and the changes he would like us to make in our lives that cause us to be reluctant at times to welcome him fully and unconditionally in our lives – it feels safer to say “thus far, Lord, and no further”.

When we recognize that there can be this frightening aspect to the encounter with Jesus, and we recognize that at times we can be fearful of what it means to belong to Christ, we need to reflect deeply on the dominant message of the Scriptures and what is so clearly visible in the life of Jesus: God is love. Our fears can only be overcome when we trust in what has been revealed to us – God is love, he wishes to embrace us with his love, he wants no harm to come to us, he longs for the sinner to return to him, he desires to make us whole and to share his life with us, he has prepared a place for us for there are “many rooms” in God’s house. God forgives the repentant, he heals the sick and broken-hearted, he is gentle to those who have been hurt. It is all summarized in those few words: God is love. When instinctively we wish to allow God to come into our lives only to a point defined by ourselves and to allow him to go no further, let us not be like the citizens of Gadara and ask him to leave. Rather, in trust, let us surrender to him and give our lives totally to him, so that we may be enveloped by his love and transformed more and more into his image. 

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Almighty and compassionate God, look kindly on your people and free them from fear and anxiety, that they may trust you in all they say and do, knowing that you are with them at all times. 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 25 June 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

Reflection for Friday 25th June 2021. Gospel passage – Matthew 8:1-4

Explanation

Jesus had just come down from the mount of the beatitudes where he preached about being merciful and immediately puts into practice what he had preached. He extends a hand of mercy to a leper. The text itself is crafted in a masterful fashion showing the beauty of the oriental mind in crafting texts in such a way as to highlight the more salient points. In this brief passage the actions of the leper and the actions of Jesus are highlighted by the use of simple repetition. The actions of the former are that he approaches Jesus and prostrates before him. The word used indicates prayer and also acknowledges Jesus as healer. The coming together of the man’s will with the will of Jesus (Matthew 8:2-3) marks the turning point in the story and the rhetorical device of repetition is now on the lips of Jesus when he indicates that the man should make an offering as Moses commanded. It is good and well to know all this but let us not be blinded to the practical consequences this passage has for us. Let us use the text as a mirror to see ourselves as we really are.

Application

The word used in the original text is not “heal” or “cure” but “cleanse”. Lepers were considered unclean and had to be cleansed. Lepers were also untouchable and when Jesus reached out and touched the man, he would have been rendered unclean in the minds of the self appointed guardians of their faith. This gesture of Jesus indicates that there should be no untouchability among us and should prompt us to see in which ways we need cleansing. Are we able to approach Jesus in the manner in which the leper in today’s passage did? Note that this man made his prayer in the presence of a crowd (Mt 8:1). Can we be humble enough to recognise our insufficiency and our neediness? In what ways am I untouchable?

Another question is: “how do I treat the unattractive characters who cross my path?”. In other words, who are the lepers that populate my world? Sadly some are disowned because of addiction and unfortunate life choices. Do I have the courage to be like Jesus and stretch out a hand to them? In conversation with a street person who begged at traffic lights I came to realise that these people are hurt in many ways but what stings them the most is not so much that we do not give handouts but that we fail to acknowledge them and even make eye contact with them. It can be difficult as many social outcasts have not been schooled in the mannerisms that we would like to see but they are the children of God who loves them and who would love to show them his care through us.

This passage can be explained in a few minutes but let us not be deceived – it will continue to haunt us and force us to live in the world created by the text until we see that in the eyes of faith, it is the one who refuses to help the poor that is in greater need of being cleansed. “Lord if you want to, you can cleanse me. I want to – be cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3).

Prayer 

Let us pray: Lord help us to imitate you in your attitude to those in need of help. Father may we become more attentive to those around us so that when you look at us, you will be able to say what you said about Jesus at his baptism and his transfiguration: “behold, my child in whom my heart delights”. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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 23 June 2021, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus draws us into the love of God, that perfect and true love which never deceives us. As we continue to honour the Heart of Jesus during this month of June, let us also strive to open our hearts to truth, for true love embraces truth. Welcome to this reflection. I have chosen the Scripture verse from the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 7:15-20).

Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? 

Let us pray:

Merciful Father, through your Holy Spirit, grant us a love of truth, that we may live our call to discipleship with honesty, always striving to deepen our love and service of you and our neighbour.  We make this prayer, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.

Deception is part of human life. It always has been and, presumably, always will be, until God’s Kingdom is finally established. Sometimes I tend to think that the deception we experience in our own days is far worse than that of previous years, but that is probably not the case. A litany of lies and falsehood among people is recorded from the very first book of the Bible. In a sense this is encouraging, because we realise that deceit is part of the human condition and, despite that, God does not give up on his creation. Sadly, this generation is not unusual in living among falsity, and it exists in every sphere of life – wherever people are to be found.

Deception is often very subtle and can be couched in noble and inspiring words that are designed to conceal reality. Think of the apartheid legislation that was described as the “abolition of passes act” which, in fact, extended the pass laws to females. Wars have been fought and countless lives lost in conflict that are said to be for “justice”, “freedom”, “equality” and the like, whereas the real motivation was more nefarious, perhaps to acquire the wealth of another people, or simply to extend power. Smear campaigns ruin the careers of rivals – such campaigns may contain some truth, but often they are based on innuendo or rumour and are used to obfuscate and muddy the waters. When personal relationships are based on lies they usually end in disaster.

The Church has by no means been free from its own struggles with lies and hidden motives. We have been through very rough patches in our history. In fact, considering what has happened in our history and the depths to which we sunk at times, I suggest that it is one of the greatest signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church that it still exists and thrives in the present, after 2000 years of existence. Our own era is marked by the rise of countless churches and they continue to spring up all over the place. Some of them are “prosperity cult” churches and are a facade for the enrichment of their pastors and leaders. Their leaders term themselves prophets and promise healing and prosperity, even offering “proof” through dramatic masquerades. They attract people who are desperately trying to find truth and meaning in their lives but who, in the end, land up disillusioned and disappointed. Mostly, such churches skip or sanitize the cruel reality of the passion and crucifixion of Jesus and have little or no understanding of the Christian vocation to share in the sufferings of Christ, and that entry to eternal life can only be through the Cross. 

Falsehood in any sphere of life leads to mistrust, disappointment, hurt, anger, conflict and destruction – physical destruction or emotional destruction. Falsehood inspires disillusionment and cynicism. It causes us to wonder if truth is possible and whether anybody can be trusted. And if truth is not possible, how can love be possible? But love is possible – human experience teaches us that – and truth is possible as well, not in its perfection or fullness due to our human limitations, but both love and truth are as much part of human life as dispassion and falsity. The fact is that the deepest longings of human beings is for love and truth, both of which are aspects of the divine and reflect the divine image that exists in the creation of each person. We have only to think of many of the martyrs and saints – people such as Mother Theresa, Martin de Porres, Aloysius Gonzaga, the martyrs of Uganda, Benedict Daswa – and all the saints and martyrs who have shown their deep self-giving love for God and their neighbour, and who always sought to find the truth and to live the truth. The divine image of God’s loves shines out in them, just as it does in countless “ordinary” people, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, neighbours, who give their hearts over to the truth of generous love.

Our expectation is that we should be able to trust our leaders, but we cannot put our hope in any person. People are always capable of disappointing us, simply because no person is perfect. There are people who may inspire us and we find much to admire in them – it’s good to have role models and even heroes. But the perfection of truth, and the perfection of love, is to be found in God alone. Many leaders, priests, bishops, popes, leaders of nations, in whom we recognize the image of divine truth and love but, ultimately, they are only servants who have responded to the Holy Spirit to make the world a better more caring place. Our focus, aided and encouraged by these servants, must be on God and his love, revealed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus – it is in that heart that we will find perfect love and the fullness of truth.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Protect your people for all harm and evil. We pray O Lord, and bless them with an abundance of good health, joy and peace. Through Christ our Lord, amen

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

Laudato Si’ presentation on Radio Veritas

In a broadcast that is of particular relevance to the Archdiocese of Cape Town, be sure to tune into Radio Veritas (DSTV 870 audio) Tuesday 7 June 2021 from 09.00-10.00 with Berni Crewe-Brown for the latest on Laudato Si’, Caring for our Common Home.

Prayer and Reflection by Bishop Sylvester David OMI

Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 18 June 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.

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

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

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

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

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