Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 27 November 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 Fri 27 Nov 2020 (34th or last week of Ordinary Time).
Last week I posted a reflection on making a resolution/s for the new liturgical year. That was done at that time so as to allow some opportunity for reflection to see what is the most appropriate resolution I can make to meaningfully celebrate the new liturgical year.
Today we have a fig tree to reflect on. The fig tree in Palestine was different to all other trees. While the others were evergreens, the fig tree faced the cold winter completely unadorned. Dormancy is written into its life. Unlike humans, birds and animals which can migrate, plants are fixed for life. When adverse, cold conditions exist the plant ceases to receive its life giving cues from the external environment and turns its focus inwards to receive its direction from its inner rhythms. Those who plant seeds know this. Seeds have to remain dormant in order to fully mature. During the time of “doing nothing” the seed is actually maximising its capacity, not so much for a quick turnover, but for its survival into eternity. Jesus honoured the human need for times not given to accomplishment but to rest and regeneration – that is why he sought times of alone-ness.
The style of today’s Gospel text and its accompanying first reading from Revelations 20 is called “apocalyptic”. The meanings are hidden in symbols. It was written to give people hope in times of distress. Its purpose is to counteract the paralysis that comes with hopelessness. The emphasis is that although we cannot know the precise timing, there will be an end to present distress. The fig tree symbol conveys the notion that even though there is the appearance of death through the barren and leafless fig tree, new life will blossom. Winter will give way to the new life of springtime.
Covid-19 and the distress that it has caused will not have the final say. St Paul conveys this very succinctly in the question he asks: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35). He goes through a litany of misfortunes and in Romans 8:39 concludes that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Whether by vaccine, avoidance of contamination, or by convalescence – or even by a combination of these factors, we will be victorious.
And as we remember those who have lost their lives to Covid-19, we rely on the faith of the Church expressed in Preface I of the Requiem Mass: “In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. Our union with God will be achieved – even if it comes through Covid-19. As Mother Juliana of Norwich said: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” She knows – she suffered the effects of the Black Death plague which ravaged England from 1348-50.
Let us pray: Lord as the liturgical year rushes towards it end, it will give way to a new cycle of encountering you through our liturgical celebrations. We thank you for the opportunities given to us through our faith life and ask for the grace to worship in ways that are acceptable to you. We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town