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 5th June 2020, 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.

A reflection on “Change” for Friday 5th June 2020

Things have changed recently. Barely three months ago coronavirus was a distant problem, which China and Italy had to deal with. Very soon it spread. And then we went into an extreme form of lockdown. Gradually this gave way to a less restricted type of lockdown and we were at least able to do some exercise. There were announcements and then some counter announcements and many South Africans were upset. And then out of the blue as it were, the restrictions on public worship were lifted, but with severe limitations. 

Many Bishops in Southern Africa deliberated this with their Consultors and depending on the severity of the infections in their part of the country, came up with what they considered to be the safest options. Some opted for a very restricted return to public worship and others opted not to open at all – at least until all the requirements were put in place. Our guiding principle is the promotion of life and well being. We have a moral obligation to protect life.

In order for us to be successful in this battle all need to play their part. A lot has been said about the ‘new normal’. We have to embrace change. But this is not just change for its own sake. This is the adaptation of a new set of values. There are two types of change – first order change and second order change. First order change is a superficial change e.g. I have to get up early because I have to get to the airport to catch an early flight. This is normally a once off event and I merely make the adjustment so as not to miss a flight. Second order change on the other hand is different. It is deep seated and rather than come from outside of myself, it comes from deep within. I start to behave differently because I see the value in the new set of behaviours. I see that a greater good will come out of the new behaviours and so I make the sacrifice.

In Christian language this second order change is called conversion. Conversion is a biblical word and it literally means going beyond ones ordinary way of thinking. In other words, to see the world through new lenses. I now see a different reality and choose my behaviour pattern in response to that. Conversion must of necessity be life giving. Note that this is not merely a sentimental change of heart. The heart will change and in the words of Ezekiel, the heart of stone will be replaced by a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) but it all starts with going beyond our ordinary way of thinking – for that is what conversion is. This new way of thinking is not foreign to the faith. 

The Church has always defined faith as an intellectual ascent to the truth. I see and think in a new way and this governs how I respond. This new way of seeing will change my heart. This featured in the life of St Augustine and closer to home, in the life of Archbishop Denis Hurley OMI. Conversion for them was not merely a change of heart – it was primarily a change in thinking, which brought about the changed heart. They were able to see the world through new lenses.

I wish you well as you embrace the changes that will be life giving to those around us as we face the new normal in our society and in our worship life.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

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