Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 11 December 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 11 December 2020.
Isaiah 48:17-19. Please read the text.
The first verse of the reading is striking: “Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel…” (Isaiah 48:17). In this reflection I hope to show the importance of the title “Redeemer” for our appreciation of the Eucharist.
The opening words of the passage “Thus says the Lord” constitute a solemn prophetic declaration and was a signal to those hearing these words at Israel’s liturgical celebrations to sit up and take note. Immediately after this solemn introduction we are told exactly what we need to be attentive to. God is presented as our Redeemer. This is a word that is often used in religious circles. We hear it at funeral liturgies when Job declares that he knows his redeemer lives (cf. Job 19:25), and at other religious gatherings. Fr John Foley SJ of the St Louis Jesuits composed a hymn called “Redeemer Lord” in the early 1980s where the Isaiah text from the first Sunday of Advent is captured in a most imaginative and moving way. Those who can download it ought to do so as this song captures the essence of who God is for the people of faith. [The title of the compilation by the St Louis Jesuits is “Lord of Light”].
The word “Redeemer” as used in the Bible comes from economic life of ancient Israel, or to be more precise, from the family law of the tribal community. Bearing in mind that Israel had a shame culture, any indebtedness had to be avoided as that would bring shame on the whole clan. Therefore whenever someone fell on hard times, the nearest, dearest living relative would see it as duty to bring redemption by literally paying the price. When God claims to be our redeemer He is in fact claiming to be our nearest kin who will spare us from shame.
This is what we celebrate in the Eucharist. Our catechism teaches us that one of the main effects of the Eucharist is the forgiveness of sins. In the NT, Jesus is the one who makes the payment – not in silver or gold but with his own blood (1 Peter 1:18-20) and that is what we celebrate in the Eucharist each day. St Paul captures this nicely in Ephesians 1:7 when speaking of the grace we receive through Christ he says: “in whom we have redemption through his blood”. We must also remember the words spoken over the chalice: “Take this all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”
Let us pray: God our Father, you have laid claim to a relationship with us whereby you take away our sin and shame. Jesus came to show just how much you love us and has paid the price for our sins. During this year of the Eucharist help us to cherish the gift of the sacrament by which our sins are forgiven. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.[Blessing].