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 22nd January 2021, 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 22 January 2021. Text of Mark 3:13-19

I want to start by explaining a few aspects of the text. Jesus had already called these men to be his followers and now from the many who followed him, he constitutes the Twelve into the original apostolic community. The original text simply states that he “made the Twelve” meaning that he deliberately constituted this community and called the members “Apostles” – a word which means “sent”. They are called for two purposes viz. to be with Jesus, and to be sent out to proclaim the Gospel. It is interesting that this event should take place on a mountain – the traditional place of communion with God. This indicates that the call and response dialogue in the Bible comes out of a communion with God and is a deliberate action of Christ. Israel comprised twelve tribes and now the new Israel will be embodied in the Twelve. 

Looking at this group one has to admit that they look a lot like us. They came from different walks of life and from different places. It was, in a word, a non intentional community. They were summoned to be together by Christ. Mark 3:14 indicates a clear purpose in their being called together. This purpose was “to be with him” and also to be sent out to proclaim with authority which he gave them. Later on during his trial one of the ladies around the fire where Peter took refuge would recognise that Peter had “been with Jesus” (Mark 14:66f). Those who spend time with Jesus carry an unmistakeable recognition – even when falling away as happened to Peter.

It is interesting that these Apostles had no distinguishing marks. In so many ways they resemble us. Their family portraits would be just like our family portraits. It is significant that had this group been together in any other place i.e. apart from Jesus, Simon the Zealot (in our passage referred to as Simon the Canaanite) would have plunged a dagger into the heart of Matthew and would have considered it an honour to do so. The Zealots were hell-bent on overcoming the Roman occupation of their land and Matthew, being a tax collector would have been seen as a collaborator with the foreign occupiers. But now with the constitution of the Apostolic community even traditional enemies begin to embrace each other. This is what being with Jesus is all about. It brings people together and dismisses false notions of partisan absolutes. This text can teach us a lot because like to original apostolic community we too find ourselves responding to the high calling of the baptised, and at times falling away from Jesus. That Jesus continued to believe in them indicates that we ought to take courage and that we should never give up on Christ, as he will never give up on us. Do not be afraid of our brokenness and of the incompleteness we experience in our families and homes. Christ will never abandon us. In a reflection a few months ago I included some lines from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” (2008). Let me repeat those lines here: “ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in”.

Judas is mentioned in the last verse (v 19) of the passage and mentioned alone as the one who will “hand him over”, give him up, or betray him. In verse 14 of the passage he was called to “be with” Jesus. But in the last verse he is the one who would be against Jesus. Later Jesus would teach us that anyone who is not with him is against him (Matthew 12:30). 

It is interesting that the first three to be called had their names changed. Whenever this happens it signifies that the person is set aside for a special mission. These were the ones that witnessed him heal Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30), raise the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37), being transfigured on the mountain (Mark 9:2-8), and agonising in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). What could be the role he has for each of us? Many of us have had our names changed – some when they made vows and others when they were baptised or confirmed.

Let us pray: Father, help us to realise that we are called not through our own merits but because you love us and see possibilities for us. Help us to respond to your call with courage and conviction. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

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