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 31 July 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.

Reflection for Friday 31 July 2020

Today the Church holds before us the shining example of St Ignatius Loyola and we wish all our Jesuit friends and colleagues a happy feast day. Had this not been a feast day the closing prayer at the Mass would have referred to the Eucharist as a gift given by the Lord “with love beyond all telling” – and that is the subject for our reflection for today: God’s love.

At the outset it must be noted that unless we have come to realise just how much God loves each one of us, we have not started to live – we merely exist, or to put it another way, we have died and are just too lazy to fall down! This should be the start of our journey as disciples and yet it is hardly mentioned. Sadly the opposite is referred to. Think of how many times the name of Jesus is used to frighten children. A child does something naughty and s/he is conditioned to believe that Jesus is angry and upset. Some grow up believing that God is a harsh judge just waiting to exact revenge for their bad behaviour. How far from the truth we have ventured!

What then is the truth? The basic truth is that God loves us with a love beyond all telling. In the text which I used for the closing prayer last Friday St Paul speaks of the “superabundance” of God’s love – which is “beyond anything we could ask or imagine”.

The Bible abounds with texts describing God’s tender love for us, his children. In Psalm 139 we are told that before he formed us in the womb he loved us. In Isaiah 49 we are told that he has carved us on the palm of his hand. In Isaiah 63 and 64 the prophet gives us access to a language rich in fatherly love as he addresses God: “After all, you are our Father”. This section of Isaiah was composed in the aftermath of the Babylonian captivity when Israel was trying to reconstruct its life (reconstruction is a familiar concept in South Africa). The poem remains faithful to the vision and doctrines proclaimed earlier in the scroll and adapts these to the life situation of discouragement and desolation. This is why in the midst of a pandemic those with faith can look to the future with hope. Other prophets have also used the language of love when describing our God. Consider the following texts:

Jeremiah 31:20 – “Is Ephraim, then, so dear a son to me, a child so favoured, that whenever I mention him I remember him lovingly still? That is why I yearn for him, why I must take pity on him, Yahweh declares”.

Jeremiah 3:19 – “And I was thinking: How am I to rank you as my children? I shall give you a country of delights, the fairest heritage of all the nations! I thought: You will call me Father and will never cease to follow me”. This is the loving heart of a father yearning for his children.

Hosea 11:1-4 – “When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt … I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I myself took them by the arm, but they did not know that I was the one caring for them, that I was leading them with human ties, with leading-strings of love, that, with them, I was like someone lifting an infant to his cheek, and that I bent down to feed him”.

These are only a few verses which I quote. Read the Bible and see for yourselves. The wonder in all this is that we do not have to be perfect before we are loved. That is very clear in the letter to the Romans. God loved us while we were still sinners and when we discover this love we change and become better people.

In contemplating texts about God’s love e.g. the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15, we can be moved to tears. In fact in some cases if we are not moved to tears we have not read the text properly. Do not prevent the tears as according to St Oscar Romero, some aspects of life can only be seen through eyes which have cried. 

Let us pray:
Father of love, you love us with a love beyond all telling. Help us to live in this love and to share it with others and with all of creation. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen [Blessing].

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