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 26 November 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.

Archbishop Brislin posted his last reflection for this year on 24 November and will restart on 12 January 2022, while Bishop Sylvester will restart on 14 January 2022.

We wish you a blessed Advent season and a meaningful celebration of the birth of the Lord.

26 November 2021

Again, we honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

The enduring Word of God (Luke 21:29-33) 

For this reflection I want to focus on the last verse of the Gospel passage for today’s Mass: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Lk 21:33). As we near the end of the liturgical year, we are confronted with rapidly changing value systems, philosophies and ideas. Fashions come and go. Present accomplishments soon will be a part of history. A few decades ago the world was shocked by the onset of the AIDS pandemic (now reduced in status by the WHO as a global epidemic), but gradually we learned to cope with the situation and also to be on the alert when dealing with people bearing open wounds, etc. Many who were infected have learned to live with AIDS. Our hope is to eliminate the Covid-19 pandemic, or at the very least learn to live with it so that it does not place so many restrictions on us. 

Whatever the case, we live in an ever changing environment. Those who cannot cope with change will find this very difficult. We yearn for something that is constant and consistent. And this is where the saying of Jesus comes into play. All will change and know decay but his Word will still be there. It is this Word that helps us to remain constant and to cope with so much change. Perhaps it will be useful to recall the essence of his Word. He summed up the commandments as love of God and love of neighbour (Mt 22:40). The first letter of John states further that no one can love God who has not been seen without loving the neighbour who can be seen (1 Jn 4:20). So, it all boils down to the love of neighbour. When Jesus gave the example of service as he washed the feet of his disciples, he pointed out that love is the hallmark of discipleship (Jn 13:34-35). In all these references the word for love is the total self sacrificial love which we see on the Cross. To be Christian means to make sacrifices for others.

As so as we anticipate the new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, let us make resolutions which will show this kind of love in action in our homes, our families and in our dealings with others. As the current liturgical year rushes to its closure, let us thank God for the many blessings the liturgical cycle has brought us. First and foremost is the encounter with God through our liturgical practices. The opportunities for the celebration of God’s mercy and for the renewal of our lives have been given to us in our liturgical year. I wish you well as we transition into our new liturgical cycle.

To conclude – this will be my last reflection for this year. Archbishop Brislin posted his last for this year on 24 November and will restart on 12 January 2022. I will restart on 14 January 2022. We wish you a blessed Advent season and a meaningful celebration of the birth of the Lord.

Let us pray: God our Father, you are Lord of all times and seasons. Give us the graces we need to meaningfully participate in the new liturgical year which we are about to commence. Help us not only to celebrate your love and mercy, but to meaningfully share these gifts with others. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop S. David OMI 

Vicar General/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town.

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 24 November 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 which will be the last of the Wednesday reflections for this year, but will resume mid-January 2022. The recent crime statistics are a stark reminder that South Africa remains a highly violent country and we are living with that violence continually. Let us therefore pray for peace in Southern Africa, remembering especially South Africa and eSwatini:

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.

As we have reached the end of the Church’s year it is opportune to reflect on who we are and who we are called to be. In a sense, as the Church’s year ends the readings remind us of who we are – people – and not lords of the universe. We are dust and unto dust we shall return. Advent, which begins the Church’s liturgical cycle helps us prepare both for the celebration of the first coming of Christ, his incarnation, and his second coming when he shall come in glory – it turns our focus on who we are called to be.

The prophecies of the end of the world should not frighten us or be a cause of undue anxiety. They simply tell the truth – our earthly lives will end. Indeed, the world itself, as we know it, will end. Our bodies are subject to decay and this is a reality of our human existence. It is beyond our power to do anything about it. We need to be reminded of our mortality from time to time because among us humans there can be a tendency to vanity and pride. We begin to think that we are invincible, that we can achieve anything; and when we start thinking like that we can slip into the error of believing more in the power of technology, science and human endeavours without realising that these are tools given to us for our good and the good of mankind. But that is what they are – tools, gifts, blessings and we thank God for them. But we shouldn’t fall in love with them. They must not become our idols. Think of what we hear in Psalm 135 (15-17):

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    nor is there breath in their mouths.

All our attention should be given to the one who gives breath, who gives life, sight and sound. We rejoice in the wisdom, knowledge and technical know-how that God has blessed us with, but nothing can or will ever replace God, no matter how much we have, how rich we are or how powerful we are. God is God and we remain human beings, the created. When we reflect on the “end of times” we are put in our place and reminded that we are the created and not the creator. We are reminded of how much we are in need of the Creator for new and everlasting life.

While accepting this “realism” we are always a people of hope. The Season of Advent promises that annihilation is not the final word, but that there is a new dawn, a new day, that awaits us. The light has come into the world and “a child has been born unto us” (cf. Isaiah 9:6). There is hope because salvation has come into the world, and we are “called and chosen” (cf. 1Peter 2:9) for a new and eternal existence. We watch and wait patiently, firstly to celebrate with joy the light coming into the world and, secondly, for the final accomplishment of the Kingdom of light. Our “watching and waiting” is not passive, but is filled with the consciousness of God’s presence in our lives and our response to that presence of love with which he surrounds us. It is both in communion with God and in serving God through our neighbour that we watch and wait; and we are able to put into perspective the many different aspects of our lives and our values. It is not through riches nor vanity that we can attain entry into the light. As in the lyrics of the hymn (“Be thou my vision”):

Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise. Thou mine inheritance, now and always. Thou and thou only first in my heart. High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

In anticipating the “child born unto us” we see clearly the need to simplify and purify our lives, to unravel the knots that are a consequence of the threads of experience and events that entangle and bind us, to let go of what is unnecessary and clutters our lives, and to desire primarily “to be” rather than “to have”. As we celebrate new life, the birth of a child born humbly, we are able to interpret where our true riches lie – not in things, but in the people who surrounded us, our families particularly, our friends, colleagues, associates, our fellow pilgrims who have set their sights on God’s Kingdom. Advent focusses us on simplifying our lives, shaking off the dust and cobwebs that have settled on our tired spiritual clothes so that we are spiritually invigorated and sparkle once again. We simplify our lives to ensure that “Thou and thou only (will be) first in my heart”. In such simplicity we are unburdened and freed from controlling desires that long for what is vanity. We are given the joy and exuberance to rejoice in “God our Saviour”, to rejoice in his mercy and forgiveness, to savour the life he has promised us that is eternal, and to be surrounded by his love and presence.

I wish you all a blessed Advent Season. May it prepare you to receive anew the child Jesus and may his salvation and light enter your heart. Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Fill your people with your grace, Lord, that their hearts may be filled with the light of salvation, as they place all their hope in you. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, 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 19 November 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.

Again, we honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

Just to recap – Adsumus is a Latin term meaning a coming together. It conveys the notion of God’s people coming together in response to the call of the Spirit. This, literally, is what the Synod is all about.

Text for reflection: 1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59

As the liturgical year rushes to its closure this reading provides strength to see what needs to be done in order to become more faithful. The first reading of today’s Mass recounts the valiant efforts of Judas Maccabee and his brothers to restore the sacred place and to rededicate it. The Temple and its altar had been profaned through dishonest wheeling and dealing. Both one and two Maccabees show staunch allegiance to the law of Moses. Despite the narrative delving into wars and political intrigue, the perspective of Maccabees 1 is decidedly religious. It is not simply about political power, but about the survival of the faith in a world whose driving force is politics and ideology.

If we take an honest hard look at the world around us, we too will see the same struggle. The ancient story therefore becomes a mirror for our own times and in fact shows what can be achieved when the sacred tenets of the faith become threatened. Judas and his brothers decide to purify the sanctuary and to rededicate it. Purification is to remove foreign elements from the sanctuary and to show a firm allegiance to the deposit of faith. It also included physical repair. Taking care of our sacred spaces is more than just an external attitude. According to I Macc 4:36 it is a part of the process of purification.

Rededication (1 Macc 4:54, 58) implies restoring what had been made unclean. In the time of the Maccabees unclean places were equated with the Kidron Valley which was used as a burial ground (cf. 2 Kgs 23:6); and Hinnom (also known as Gehenna) where Jerusalem’s garbage was burnt. It was also the place where child sacrifices were burnt (cf. Jer 7:31). All told, these places constitute disturbing alternatives to a place consecrated and dedicated to God to bring about purification.

Its all very well being acquainted with these facts but how does it impact on us in the 21st century? I wish to consider two ways. Firstly, our attitudes to our sacred spaces. We have become careless in that even our churches are no longer places of silence. Jesus stated quite clearly that his disciples were to be in the world but not of the world. To be of the world means to be possessed by the world. We sometimes like to think that we possess the world, but in realty the opposite is true – the world possesses us. That is why so many people measure their self-worth not according to Gospel values, but according standards set by the world with its soap operas, and its mediating institutions. 

In these days we have lost our sense of the sacred, forgetting that there is a difference between worship and entertainment. Also, while we do not demand extremely formal dress codes for liturgical celebrations, it is not good to come into the worshipping assembly haphazardly dressed. There is a difference between going to Mass and going to the beach. Our attendance at the liturgy is not meant to be accidental. We prepare for Mass through prayer and recollection. We are not meant to roll out of bed and into the chapel. In particular, for priests there ought to be two types of preparation – a remote preparation during which we allow ourselves to be nourished and transformed by the Word; and an immediate preparation viz. a brief period of silence prior to our encounter with Christ in the liturgy.

The second point I wish to make is that our bodies are also temples of the Holy Spirit and that we are called to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor 6:19-20). When the heart nurtures less than noble intentions do not our bodies become defiled? Let us use an example from scripture. In our night prayer once a week (on Wednesdays) we are given the text of Eph 4:26-27 which urges us not to let resentment lead us into sin. The word translated resentment, means anger. There are two types of anger in the bible – one is the righteous anger we show when the innocent suffer for example. Jesus showed this type of anger when he called Herod a fox (cf. Lk 13:32). The prophets did so when they raged against injustice. The second type of anger is a negative force and can be destructive. It is the type of anger which keeps us awake at night plotting the downfall of the neighbour. Resentment is an unhelpful emotion in which we plunge a dagger into our own hearts and expect others to bleed. St Paul urges us not to indulge in this type of anger as that will give the devil an opportunity (Eph 4:27).

Let us pray: Lord give us the grace to respond to our situations in the most life giving ways possible. Help us to purify our motives so that our bodies may indeed be temples of your Spirit in which your divine presence feels at home. Where we have sinned give us the courage to celebrate the sacraments so as to be rededicated to your service. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop S. David OMI 
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town

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 17 November 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.

As we near the end of the Church’s liturgical year we are urged in the Readings of the Mass to prepare ourselves for the “end of time”, for judgement and for the salvation for which we hope. Welcome to this reflection and I will begin with the Adsumus prayer, praying for the Synod of 2023:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

The Scripture text is from the First Reading of today’s Mass, the Book of Maccabees (2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31):

I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with the breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.

These were some of the words spoken by a mother to her seven sons who were being tortured and put to death during a time of persecution of the Jews. The pagan king tried to force them to eat pork, forbidden for the Jews, and to abandon their religious beliefs and customs. The mother urged her sons not to give in, to remain faithful to the Lord and expressed her deep faith in the Resurrection for those who remain faithful to him. She had to watch the death of each of her sons and extra pressure was brought on her when her youngest was about to be put to death but she did not relent and the young man did not forsake his faith.

As we approach the end of the Church’s liturgical year, and we hear about the terrible “signs” that will accompany the end of times, it is opportune to look at this Jewish mother’s faith and to emulate her. Not only should we remain strong in our Catholic faith and our religious customs, but we need to strengthen others to do the same. So much pressure can be brought on people to conform to other practices or beliefs because it is the trend or politically correct. The lure of conformity, of submitting to prevailing culture even when it is contrary to our faith, and the seduction of promises of reward and acceptance, can be overwhelming especially for young people. Parents have a very important and essential role to equip their children in the faith, to pray with them, to encourage them and, most important of all, to be good role models by living the faith.

Our fidelity to Christ and our faith pays off. Not only is it the road to peace, harmony and acceptance, it will also bring to a happy completion our earthly pilgrimage. The funeral liturgy – and every Catholic and catechumen has a right to be buried according to the rites of the Church – celebrates with hope the deceased’s entry into new life. Recalling the sinfulness of every person’s life and also the faithfulness with which we try to live our lives, we commend the deceased through our prayers and rituals to the mercy of our loving God. The body itself is honoured as the coffin is sprinkled with holy water, recalling the person’s entry into the Church and Christian life through baptism, and is incensed as a sign of the holiness of one created in the image of God and the acknowledgement that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is why it is important for the body to be present at the Requiem Mass or funeral service – only in unavoidable circumstances (such as the time when there were fears that a body could infect others with Covid) should the body be absent or only the cremated ashes be present.

As people of faith, we come to bury our dead with sadness and mourning, but also with the unshakeable hope of Resurrection. As we hear in the first Preface of the Dead, for life is changed, not ended. To bury the dead is one of the corporal acts of mercy and our task, the way in which we can be of service to the deceased, is by our prayers made sincerely and humbly. So many things can creep into the funeral liturgy through sentimentality, such as unnecessary speeches, secular music or panegyrics; yet these are of no help to the deceased. Our prayers will help the deceased, and our humble act of returning to God the gift of the life of our loved one given to us by God, will be of service to our departed loved one. It is in God that our hope lies, it is he who is merciful and the Master of all life, it is to him that we go in our sorrow and to him we commend our loved one through Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn14:6). 

We should always endeavour to keep the funeral liturgy simple, so that our prayers do not become cluttered with unnecessary symbols or excessive words. Let the focus always clearly be on God who is our light and salvation (Ps 27:1). I will end with the “Prayer of final Commendation” taken from the funeral liturgy, and I suggest you could use it during this month of November when you pray for your deceased loved ones and for the souls in purgatory, remembering especially the forgotten ones:

Father,

into your hands we commend our brother (sister).

We are confident that with all who have died in Christ

he (she) will be raised to life on the last day

and live with Christ for ever.

We thank you for all the blessings

you gave him (her) in this life

to show your fatherly care for all of us

and the fellowship which is ours with the saints

in Jesus Christ.

Lord, hear our prayer:

welcome our brother (sister) to paradise

and help us to comfort one another

with the assurance of our faith

until we all meet in Christ

to be with you and with our brother (sister) for ever.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you: And with your spirit.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, 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 12 November 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.

Again, we honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

Reflection: Text for reflection: Mt 10:39

This text comes from the communion antiphon for today’s Mass on the feast of St Josaphat the Martyr. The text reads: “Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it in eternity, say the Lord.” Josaphat, a Bishop, lost his life for the sake of Christ in the 17th century. Because he worked for unity among the followers of Christ, he was subjected to mob violence and lost his life. Josaphat is an important symbol in today’s Church as we strive for unity. At the end of last month, an ecumenical group gathered at St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town to celebrate the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Federation on 31st October 1999 in Augsburg, Germany. This gathering was a sharp reminder to us that the disunity among Christians is perhaps the biggest betrayal of Jesus. It goes against everything he lived for, died and rose for, and sent the Holy Spirit for. 

Read, for example, the words of his priestly prayer in Jn 17:21-24 “May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Josaphat lived in a time of schisms. These schisms did not serve the Church. They entrenched political powers and the consequent entitlement these powers enjoyed. Near the end of the 16th century, one of the Orthodox churches entered into communion with Rome – a happy event surely, but not for all as the supporters of the aristocracy formed a further schism and defended their stance with violence. One sees this nowadays in situations where all of life becomes politicized. Where one finds strong oppositional attitudes based not on the good of the people but on ideologies, this kind of violence can and does arise. It brings shame upon the face of Christ whose desire is for us to be united.

What can we do against these divisions? There are a few avenues we could follow. We could learn about the belief systems of the various groups. We can pray and enter into dialogue. We will find that there is a lot more that we have in common than are the features which separate us. Not all dialogue ends with perfect accord. That in itself ought not to be a problem as we can and should agree to disagree – but not abandon the dialogue and the working together in such projects as alleviating hunger, caring for the neighbour, and working for a better society.

In particular, the Synod process which we have engaged in ought to empower us to appreciate the diversity that exists among us. Religion is meant to lead us to God and not to be a cause of division and hatred. As with all wars, where hatred replaces dialogue there can be no winners – only losers, and our religious systems collapse because they fail to foster unity. But where we are prepared to lose our selves for Christ’s sake, we will achieve eternal life (Mt 10:39).

Let us pray: Lord, help us to be one so that the prayer of Jesus might be realised in us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop S. David OMI 

VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town

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 10 November 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. As we all know, in the month of November we pray for the faithful departed, for the souls in purgatory. We remember particularly our own loved ones who have died, as well as friends and acquaintances. We should not forget, though, to pray for the forgotten ones, those who have no-one to pray for them. But let us 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 ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

The Reading I have chosen for this reflection is not from the Readings of today’s Mass, but from St Paul’s letter to the Romans 6:3-5:

You cannot have forgotten that all of us, when we were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so shall we be by a resurrection like his.

In reflecting on death, we should always be immensely grateful for our baptism. Most of us were infants, or at least very young, when we were baptized and so we have no recollection of it. Baptism is a beautiful celebration filled with symbolism and an insertion into the deep mysteries of our creation and salvation, although regrettably these are often not as appreciated as they should be. Baptism is not simply an opportunity to celebrate the birth of a child – which is important and beautiful; neither is it simply making the new born into a member of the Church – that, too, is important. An essential part of the profoundness of the Sacrament of Baptism lies in the teaching given by St Paul in his letter to the Romans – in Baptism we have been baptized into the death of Christ and have been buried with him, so that we will be raised from the dead with him and share in his resurrection.

For a Christian, there is an intimate link between baptism and death – that is why the Paschal (Easter) Candle is lit when someone receives the Sacrament of Baptism, and it is lit again at the funeral of the person. The Paschal Candle symbolizes the presence of Christ, the Light of the world, who is among us and present to us. The candle of the baptized person is lit from the Paschal Candle and given to the parent or sponsor as a symbol of the light of Christ entering into the life of the newly baptized, and that the newly baptized shares now in the life of Christ. It is by that light we, as Christians, live in the firm faith that through our baptism we have put aside the old life of sin of Adam (even if we had not personally sinned at the time), and we live the new life of Christ within us. We have died to sin and have been raised to life. Clearly we know that we continue to sin, and we also know that we have not yet achieved the fullness of resurrection – these will be accomplished through the mercy and sacrifice of Christ at the time of our being called to God, when we shall see him “face to face” and, once and for all, we will be truly dead to sin and alive in Christ, sharing his resurrection.

Thus, death is the completion of our baptismal journey, the final great event in bringing us to our final destination and ultimate destiny – life in Christ, a sharing in the glorious light of his resurrection. As we continue on this great pilgrimage in the hope that our faith offers us, it is incumbent on us all to guard and protect the light of Christ that is aflame within us. It may be similar to a small, wavering candle but we must keep it alight at all times, ensuring that we use all our resources to prevent the winds of sin, doubt, anxiety and despair from extinguishing that flame.

We take great comfort from the sacrament of baptism, not only as a means of understanding our own deaths but also in accepting the deaths of loved ones. It is always painful to lose someone we love and there are no words that can remove that pain. As much as we believe in Resurrection and eternal life, the rawness of separation leaves us grief-stricken. Faith is the rock which strengthens us in our sadness and the hope we have that we will be re-united with all those who have played an integral part in our lives and whose presence we still feel. In the meantime, we continue to pray for the dead for It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for them, that they may be loosed from sins.1 Not only is our prayer an act of love and mercy for them, it is also an act of faith made by us, as it re-affirms our belief in resurrection and life eternal. It affirms, too, our belief that God is merciful and forgiving, and that our prayers make a difference for those who have left the Church on earth (our present reality), and who are being purified before entering the Church triumphant in glory. Those who are in that third part of the Church of being purified, in other words in purgatory, deserve our prayers for them. It is a noble and generous act to pray for the ones we love but also to remember to pray for those who have been forgotten, that they too may soon share in the glory of God.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, amen.

Let us now pray for God’s blessing:

The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit

Bow down for the blessing:

Father, look kindly on your people you have called through baptism. Enkindle in them the fire of your love and bring them finally to the glory of your Kingdom. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

1 cf. 2 Maccabees 12:46

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 5 November 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 5 November 2021

Again, we honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

Perhaps, just to recap – Adsumus is a Latin term meaning a coming together. It conveys the notion of God’s people coming together in response to the call of the Spirit.

Reflection: Romans 15:14-21 and Psalm 97

Both the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass articulate God’s desire for inclusivity. Paul insists that his mission is to preach to people who have not known of Christ. Although this situation, with a few exceptions, is less likely after more than twenty centuries of Christian existence, we can still locate numerous people who might have heard of Christ but have not felt his love and support simply because Christians have failed to demonstrate these qualities. This happens when we are Christians in name only and not in our lifestyles, our choices and our responses.

Perhaps a real story can help us: Many years ago I went to meet a friend who lived in a block of flats. We had planned to go to a cinema. While walking towards the stairs of the apartment block, we heard a child scream in agony. He asked me to wait for a few minutes and he knocked at the door where the commotion was coming from and said quite clearly to the woman who was beating the child that he would report her to the authorities if she did not stop abusing the child. She was his neighbour and he had repeatedly heard the effects of the child being beaten. She was stunned and after a few moments burst into tears. I found out later that his intervention had a very positive outcome. He followed it up and got that family the necessary help – both for the mother and the child. When I commended my friend for that he said that he simply did his duty as a Muslim. This is not the only time he spoke out against unfairness. He made his religion attractive as a voice in favour of the helpless. Sadly, as in our own faith, there are also many examples of religion conveying less than noble intentions.

Is it the function of religion to turn a blind eye to the suffering and victimisation of helpless people? Jesus answered this question in Mt 11:22-24 when he accused Bethsaida and Chorazin of not having converted. He makes an unfavourable comparison between these towns and the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah. The citizens of Bethsaida and Chorazin could rightly stand up and protest: “But Jesus, we did nothing” and he will say: “That’s exactly the problem – you did nothing!” Christianity is not only about avoiding evil – it is about actively doing good. This is why the Synod with its call for inclusivity is so important. It reminds us that we are not to exclude people who do not talk like us, worship like us, eat like us and dress like we do. Like my friend who heard the cry of a little one and brought about a positive change to his neighbour’s home, let’s see what we can do by standing up for the unrepresented, by speaking the kind word, by showing gratitude, etc. As the Statesman and Philosopher Edmund Burke (died 1797) noted: “evil thrives where good people do nothing”. 

There is a saying: “Charity begins at home”. Perhaps before we venture out into the neighbourhood, it will be good to take the momentum of the Synod into our own homes and listen to the various voices which comprise our home. There are people, especially the old and infirm, who are affirmed for not complaining – but when someone takes a real interest in them, real needs and aspirations are articulated. They do not complain simply because they have been conditioned not to. Sometimes it goes beyond using just the ears as some situations simply call us to be more attentive. For example a plant wilting in its dry pot ought to be listened to and given water otherwise it will die. An inactive pet could be communicating that it needs attention. Parents seem to have an instinct for this when their children need attention. Let’s see how we can practice greater attentiveness in the home so that we can live in more Christ-centred places. 

In all of this let us remember the saying of St Teresa of Avila that “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Let us pray: Father you bless us with many opportunities to imitate your own merciful attitude. You take care of us, of the flowers in the field, and of the birds of the air. Help us to imitate your love and care more and more, starting in our homes and reaching out to all creation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop S. David OMI 
VG/Auxiliary Bishop – Cape Town

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 3 November 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. I hope that all those who were eligible to vote in the local elections were able to do so. As we begin the month of November, we remember the faithful departed and pray for them that the Lord, in his mercy, will grant them eternal life. We begin this reflection with the Adsumus prayer, praying for the Synod of 2023:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

The Scripture reading is from the Gospel of today’s Mass (Luke 14:25-33):

And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it?”

There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is not simply calling ourselves Christians that makes us Christians. If we are really intent on following Jesus, there are consequences to that decision. We have to think carefully and question whether we have the resources to persevere in the path to which we have been called and chosen – just as a person who has decided to build a tower needs to think about whether he will be able to complete building it, and to assess what will be needed to accomplish the task. If not, he will land up with a half-built tower and will have wasted everything, including his self-esteem.

In our own reckoning of our ability to follow the Lord, we have to look at both our inner resources and outer resources. In the inward journey – and St Augustine has taught us, based on his own experience, that we find God within ourselves – we have first and foremost to look at our faith. Faith is a gift given by God, but it is also a gift that must be nurtured. Ultimately, true faith comes through an encounter with God, an awareness of his presence within us and in the world. It is about trust in God’s providence and care for us. We could perhaps sum it up with the question, is God real for me. We know that God is both transcendent (that is, God is above and beyond the normal and physical level), and he is also immanent (that is, indwelling and manifested in the material world). It is only when we have experienced, in a personal way, the mystery of God both as far beyond us and yet closely with us, that we are drawn in a hungry fascination and wonder to grow closer and closer to him. In allowing ourselves to be drawn by God, expressed by the Prophet Jeremiah in these words: you seduced me and I let myself be seduced by you (Jer 20:7), we have to question whether we have the ability to persevere and be faithful. The way to God is the road to peace, contentment and growth, but it is also a road that demands the endurance of suffering. As Jesus warns in the Gospel passage of today’s Mass,anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. In short, it involves a total self-giving, of offering oneself to God. Thus Jesus also says, none of you can be my disciple unless he give up all his possessions. Ultimately, it is not a matter of only giving up material possessions but of given up one’s self and will so that his will may be done.

We have also to consider our ability to love. We cannot love God while ignoring our neighbour – as St John says, If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen (1Jn 4:20)It is through our neighbour that we love God, for our neighbour is created in the image of God and, in some way, God dwells in his/her heart. Relationships can be fraught with friction, personality differences, hurt and sin. Part of carrying our cross must also be to carry each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2) and short-comings. It is through our neighbour that we learn to forgive, to tolerate, to accept and to reconcile. It is our neighbour who “mellows” us and helps us change into better people and better Christians. Difficult people can make us better people and more Christ-like. In all of our relationships, we are conscious of the great ideal of Christ’s teaching – to forgive. God is not only just but also merciful, and we must be the same. Peace is the fruit of love, because love goes beyond what justice can provide.1 Our aim must always be to reconcile and to restore relationships, and so we have to let go of a lot of “possessions” – the possessions of pride, hurt, self-righteousness, self-aggrievement and the desire to get satisfaction for wrongs we have endured. 

In assessing the outer resources necessary to be disciples, we look particularly at our relationship with the Church founded by Christ who gathered together those who wished to follow him. We consider and assess our participation and unity with the Christian community. It is in that oneness of belonging to the believing community, in coming together as community in prayer and worship, in receiving the Sacraments and the grace mediated through the Church, and playing our part through participation in building up the Christian community, that we receive the strength and courage from the very fountain of life and grace, Jesus Christ. We cannot meet the “cost of discipleship” unless we have the support that flows from belonging to the Body of Christ, the Christian family. But this is not a “one-way street”. We too must play our part in learning more and more to love the Church and to give ourselves in service to God through the Church.

Let us now close with a prayer:

Loving Father, we commend to you all the souls of the faithful departed, especially our loved ones and the forgotten ones. Be merciful to them Lord, and allow them a share in your glory. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. 

The Lord be with you: And with your spirit.

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

1Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the Modern World N78

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 29 October 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.

We honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name. 

With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts; 

Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it. 

We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.

Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. 

Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right. 

All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen. 

Is it against the law to cure a man on the sabbath? Lk 14:1-6

“Now on a sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. There in front of him was a man with dropsy, and Jesus addressed the lawyers and Pharisees. ‘Is it against the law’ he asked ‘to cure a man on the sabbath, or not?’ But they remained silent, so he took the man and cured him and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘Which of you here, if his son falls into a well, or his ox, will not pull him out on a sabbath day without hesitation?’ And to this they could find no answer” (Lk 14:1-6).

First an explanation of the attitude of the Pharisees. We are told that they “watched” Jesus closely. The word used indicates extreme hostility. They looked at Jesus with disdain and wanted to trap him, and in so doing, opposed the works of God.

Reflection

When conducting an Ignatian retreat, retreat masters often ask retreatants to enter into the scene. Miracle stories can be fruitfully encountered in this fashion and can tell us a lot about ourselves. The idea is to identify oneself with any of the characters in the text, or even to see that many of the characters show us aspects of ourselves e.g. in the Mary and Martha story (Lk 10:38-42) one can identify with either of the sisters, or one can see the attitudes of both in oneself. In the story for today one can identify with the man who was in need, with the Pharisees, or with Jesus. Let’s take them one at a time. 

The man in need had a painful condition which caused his body to retain water. This was often a sign of a heart problem. In identifying with this man, I need to see my need. What is it that makes me disabled and helpless? Water retention (dropsy) might not be my particular issue but what is it that prevents me from having a fuller life? It could be an aspect of my social or family relationships. It could be a dependence on alcohol, or it could be a need for forgiveness. Illness comes in many forms and the most dangerous ones are the invisible ones such as being trapped in a cycle of anxiety and depression, or enduring an abusive relationship.

It is possible that this man was planted “in front of” (Lk 14:2) Jesus quite deliberately in order to see what he would do on the sabbath. There are numerous disputes that they had with Jesus regarding the sabbath (cf. Lk 4:38; 6:6; 13:13). Planting a needy man “in front of” Jesus is not as far fetched as it might sound because of the hostility shown to Jesus by their subversive monitoring of him as shown in the first verse of the passage. Do I allow myself to be used for purposes which are destructive? This can happen when I participate in negative conversations about others, or when I take delight in their misfortune.

The second possibility for character identification is the group called “lawyers and Pharisees” (Lk 14:3) in this passage. These people were hostile to Jesus. They were so hell bent on keeping the letter of the law that they forgot about the spirit of the law. They knew the catechism of their day but failed to recognise the Messiah who was lord of the sabbath (Lk 6:5). Above all, they made a mockery of their religion by failing to show mercy. Am I like that, with full knowledge of the rubrics but without mercy? The prophets raged about the practice of religion which did not incorporate mercy. Is 58:1-12 is a case in point. Amos 4:1-3 and 5:21-27 are other examples. These people liked to find fault but instead of looking into the mirror at themselves, they looked at others through their microscopes.

The third position is that of Jesus who acted with compassion. The result was that the suffering man was restored. Recently Covid has shown us many such people. These are medical workers, people who ensure that the poor are fed and many other persons of goodwill who routinely bring life to others. Am I counted among them? It is not difficult to make people feel better about themselves. Even a kind word of thanks to those who serve and work at supermarket checkout points can help bring a human face to the space occupied by human beings. 

Let us pray: Father, our current struggle presents us with the raw materials from which our Christian responses are fashioned. Help us to imitate your Son more closely in all we do and say so that we may worship you in spirit and in truth. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.