Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 26th 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.
The cleansing of the leper in Matthew 8:1-4.
Jesus had come down from the mountain and immediately encounters human need in the form of a leper. Lepers in those days were the untouchables of society. A leper was just one step away from being a corpse. Anyone who touched a leper was rendered unclean and not fit for worship in the Temple. When Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper, he once and for all dismissed the notion of untouchability within the human community, saying in effect that there should be no untouchability among us. The word translated “cured” and “healed” in the text literally reads “cleansed” in the original and it is used three times in the space of the four verses of the gospel passage for today. Since all of us need to have clean water poured over us (Ezekiel 36:25) does not the leper reside inside each of us?
But back to the untouchability – where does it exist today? On a literal level with the need for social distancing all of us have become untouchable. But on the level of faith even though we are physically separated, we are all in the same boat – there is one faith, one Lord and one Baptism (Ephesians 4:5). In terms of Christian charity when we reach out to the poor and the starving we imitate Jesus. In verse three of today’s passage Jesus “stretches out” his hand to touch the leper. Hands turned inward can never serve others.
There are many in the Archdiocese and many friends of the Church from beyond our boundaries who have contributed to the feeding of the poor. They have stretched out their hands in the direction of those who suffer. We are grateful to them for touching the untouchables of our society. May you be richly blessed as your hands bring healing to the lepers of our time – even if the help is marked by social distancing. At this time the words of the mystic St Teresa of Avila ring true: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassionately 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: God our loving and caring Father, your Son still lives among us – at times touching the lives of others with our hands and at other times he is present in those who suffer. Help us to meaningfully acknowledge his presence through our sharing and caring. Give us the strength to stretch out our hands in the direction of those who are needy. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town