Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 26 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.
Reflection for Friday 26 March 2021. Gospel passage: John 10:31-42
As startling as it might seem to some, we have to conclude that it was religion – badly practiced religion, which put the Son of God on the cross. Why do I make such a claim? All genuine religion represents a genuine search for the genuine God. Being an authentic religious leader Jesus revealed the true God to the world but the God he revealed angered the religious leaders of his time.
In our Gospel passage of today’s Mass the Jews wanted to stone Jesus, accusing him of blasphemy. Those who opposed Jesus in the Gospel of John become a symbol for those who resist the divine message. In the synoptic gospels they are identified as Pharisees, who used religion to control people and boost their own egos. These were the people who knew the catechism but did not know God, otherwise they would never have passed the death sentence on Jesus. We see this clearly in the Gospel of Mark, for example, when the religious authorities had him condemned: “You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding? Their verdict was unanimous: he deserved to die” (Mark 14:64).
The charge was blasphemy which means to insult God with language. When Jesus said that God was with the outcast, the marginalised, the sinners, the tax collectors, the lepers and the other untouchables they became enraged. They forgot that it was the sick who need the doctor and not the healthy. They reverenced the outwardly holy and forgot about the “circumcision of the heart” (Jeremiah 4:4). The God Jesus revealed irritated them because it robbed them of their status and their power over the people. One way to enrage a power-broker or a control freak is to threaten his/her power. Power brokers will do anything to protect their power – even to the extent of murdering the innocent.
In this year of St Joseph, who was a family man, perhaps it will be good to see the ways in which power is exercised in the family. Among the spouses, is there a demonstration of God’s decision that the two shall become one – or is it more a case of one domineering the relationship while minimising the other? Parents, do your children love you – or do they fear you? Are they free enough to have an opinion that is different to yours or must they always reverence your soccer team, your political party, the brands you prefer, and bow down to the demands of your ego? It will be good to take the Passion of Christ into our homes knowing that the Cross does not transform us by by-passing our difficulties, but transforms us through helping us face our difficulties. It is not a spiritual bandage for a relational wound – rather, it is power to dialogue about our difficulties and to agree to respect each other’s differences. But the first step is always to recognise that we need God’s help.
Blasphemy literally means to insult God with language. We insult God with language when we say one thing and do another. For example when marriage vows are taken and then not kept, God is insulted with the utterance of vows in a faithless way. The same can be said of baptismal vows, priestly vows and religious professions. Other ways in which we insult God with language is through telling lies and through gossip. I wish you a meaningful reflection on how blasphemy can sometimes creep into the home in unnoticed ways and cause damage to our relationships.
Let us pray: Lord, give us the grace to become more authentic in our speech and our actions and in that way to be a true disciples of Jesus. We ask this through him who is the way, the truth and the life. Amen. [Blessing].