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 4 September 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 4th September 2020.

Our first reading for Mass today is from 1 Corinthians 4:1-5. I want to look at the first verse – in fact at just three words, because they inform us of what our attitude to the liturgy should be. We are told exactly what the role of a minister is. Paul asks us to “carefully calculate” (translated as “regard”) what we are all about. In other words we need to develop an awareness of what we do and why we do it. We do not simply roll out of bed and into the church. We do it knowingly and deliberately.

While the translation says that we are first of all servants of Christ, the original text informs us that we are attendants of Christ. This is a position of subservience. No one can be an attendant of someone who is absent. 

The Church guides us well with the notion of Real Presence. At our Eucharistic celebrations for example, Christ is present in four ways: (i) in the body assembled for worship – remember where two or three are gathered in my name I am there (Matthew 18:20); (ii) in the minister – who acts in persona Christi; (iii) in the proclamation of the Gospel; and (iv) pre-eminently in the Eucharistic species. When we gather for worship the place is super-saturated with the presence of Christ. That is why the longing for a return to Mass is so important. This longing is a viable stage in the spiritual lives of the Faithful during this pandemic – let us keep it and nurture it. 

But sometimes the opposite is shown. Recently I heard someone say that one does not have to go to Church in order to be a Christian. During the pandemic that becomes necessary – but ordinarily that argument makes no sense. Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath “as was his custom”. If attendance at liturgical worship with the gathered assembly was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for his disciples. We are after all attendants of Christ – not merely his fan club – and he seeks our table companionship.

The last word I want to refer to is “steward” – used twice in our first reading. The word used is the one from which we get the English word “economy”. It has to do with house keeping. Those entrusted with this task had to be trustworthy. House keeping had to follow certain rules as set down by the Master of the house. In the text St Paul says that we are stewards of the “mysteries of God”. These mysteries put us in touch with the divine and in our time we need to re-learn how to approach the Holy. 

Perhaps a good way to spend our time as we prepare for further integration into the worshipping community is to read the General Instruction on the Roman Missal that forms the introduction to our Sunday missals, or perhaps download it from the Vatican website ( Locally we have the Pastoral Introduction to the Order of the Mass – PIOM. I wish you joy as you discover the depth of the Church’s worship tradition.

Let us pray: Father, just like your Son’s apostles we too say: “Teach us to pray”. Teach us how to prepare for prayer and to honour the sacred traditions handed on to us by our Mothers and Fathers in the faith. Ultimately teach us how to have union with you through our worship. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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