Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 24th April 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.
Friday of the 2nd week of Easter. John 6:1-15
The Eucharist – food by the poor for the poor
Today we start our annual Easter pilgrimage through the sixth chapter of John. Over the next few days up to the Saturday of next week, during our daily Mass, the Church gives us an opportunity to meditate on John’s teaching on the Eucharist. If I may be bold enough to offer some advice, I recommend at least two readings of the whole of chapter six over the next two weeks. Read the whole chapter once a week. If the text is read with ‘fresh eyes’ it will cause a stir, and the depth of the Church’s practice of the Eucharist will strike home. In fact only then will the piecemeal meditations for each day fall into place. Please treat this as important and as preparation for the Eucharistic Congress in Budapest from 13-20 September this year.
A few years ago during a fraternal conversation my now deceased confrere Bishop Barry Wood OMI spoke meaningfully about pastoral care. He said something to the effect that when people are in need they do not need to hear theories, discourses and canonical prescripts. They simply need to be accompanied. Those who have the privilege of being in parish situations, and those who minister to refugees and dis-enfranchised people will know what the Bishop meant. The Gospel text of today’s Mass shows us just how Jesus acted when there was need … and it is exactly as the Bishop said. Prior to giving the bread of life sermon Jesus feeds them. While Phillip shows himself to be the economist working out very quickly just how much it will cost to feed the crowd and comes up with the theory of impossibility, Jesus gives them to eat from what was available. Barley loaves are mentioned twice in the passage. It is significant, because barley was the food of the poor. Wheat was too expensive. So from what a poor boy offered, Jesus feeds the multitude.
The original text of our gospel passage (John 6:3) notes that the crowd followed Jesus because of the signs he had done not with the sick but ‘with the weak’. The implication was that these people too were ‘weak’. In any event Jesus perceived that they had need for food. They were hungry and the first pastoral action of Jesus was to give them food. Jesus is introduced not so much as a teacher – that will come later. At this point Jesus is someone who simply cares for people and feeds the hungry. What a wonderful lesson in pastoral theology from the supreme pastor himself.
In the passage given for today we note that there was nothing to eat, but there was a small boy with two barley loaves. As already mentioned, barley was the food of the poor. At this time in the life of our local Church we are asking for contributions to feed the poor who face the current pandemic with serious hunger pangs. It is a mistake to think that those who are poor have nothing to give. Let the poor boy in today’s text be an example to us all whatever our station in life is. When the poor make available what they have in the presence of Jesus there is more than enough.
Let us think about this for a while – a poor boy feeds the crowd with everything he had. Does this not reflect the attitude of the poor man who gave himself as “the bread of life” (cf. John 6:35)? Does the call of Pope Francis for us to become a poor Church for the poor now make more sense? This call is nothing else but a call to become more Christ-like. I wish you a meaningful reading of John 6.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town