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 12 March 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.

The following is an extract from the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80) for today’s Mass.

“Let there be no foreign god among you,
no worship of an alien god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you from the land of Egypt”.

This is none other than an invitation to smash our idols. What are idols? They are more than mere statues and have in them a power which takes us away from God’s vision for his people. An idol is anyone or anything that claims more of our attention and allegiance than does the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. An idol could be a demagogue, an ideology, a political party, or a celebrity. It could even be the self in the case of a narcissist. 

A famous idol in the Bible is Baal – a word with means “husband”, “ruler” or “master”. There is a play on words here as Israel was intended to be espoused to the Lord but married herself off to the wrong husband. We see this image in the prophet Hosea for example.

Baal was associated with fertility and among ancient peoples there used to be certain rituals which included temple prostitution. The offspring from these unions were sacrificed on the altars of Baal. Baal therefore became associated with the death of the innocent. But is this far removed from us in terms of idolatry? Perhaps in our time Baal is not worshipped in person but “Baal-ism” exists wherever the innocent are sacrificed. We see this in the sin of abortion. Innocence is also sacrificed on the altars of lustful, reckless and indecent lifestyles where child abuse is practised. Sadly we live in a world that cannot tolerate innocence. 

Baal-ism also exists in places where liquor or drugs are embraced. Who suffers most when a parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol? Is it not the innocent who suffer? I have many happy memories of pastoral involvement with God’s people but there are also some events which stick in my memory for the wrong reason. I remember walking to do a few home visits in a parish I was assigned to. Schools had just closed for the Easter break and the children were playing on the street, happily greeting me as I walked past. I remember asking one group: “Are you happy that school is now closed?” Most said “yes” but one little girl said “no”. I got closer and asked why. What she told me made me want to weep. She said that when it is holiday time, her parents drink and fight and she and her siblings have to run away from home until it was safe to go back. This was a clear case of Baal having raised his ugly head again. In all this the message of the Psalm for today is clear: Smash the idols! Those behaviours that cause grief to the innocents must be removed.

Let us pray: Lord help us to deal meaningfully with the idols which claim our allegiance in today’s world. Help us to counteract the Baal-ism of our time by behaviours which make life meaningful for others – especially the little ones. We ask this Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town.

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