Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 2 April 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 Good Friday — 2 April 2021.
Last year we marked Good Friday under the hard conditions of lockdown level five. This year there are still some restrictions but at least some are able to attend Good Friday liturgies. So there is something to be grateful for. At the time of writing this reflection, there is still some uncertainty with respect to the possibility of further restrictions.
With the uncertainty surrounding us, the decline in the economy, the fear, and the discomfort of not even being able share social spaces with our friends and loved ones, we can easily see a cross planted in our midst right now. In addition many people have relationship issues and from time to time one hears such comments as: ‘that spouse is my cross’ or ‘my neighbour, colleague, employer, etc. is my cross’. Undoubtedly many circumstances are painful and many suffer needlessly through the careless and negligent attitudes of those with whom they live, work and share the neighbourhood – but to limit the cross only to these situations is not to benefit more fully from the mystery of Calvary.
How and where do we encounter this mystery? What do the scriptures say? St Paul informs us that through his bodily suffering he shared in the cross of Christ. The implication is that when we suffer or take care of the sick and infirm, we actually touch the cross. Why do we not see it like that? One reason is that we have domesticated and glamorised the cross and only look for it in antiseptic places. Gilt edged crosses are only found in jewellery stores. The real cross was not perfumed but was covered with dust, blood, sweat and tears. When we have to contend with sickness and impending death in the family we actually lift the cross out of the rocks of calvary and plant it firmly in our homes and it is through the Cross that we have salvation.
Another place to find the cross is on our altars every day. St Paul, in his teaching on the Eucharist tells us that whenever we carry out the Eucharistic injunction, we celebrate the Lord’s death until he comes again. Look at your missals and pay attention to the first two acclamations of the mystery of faith whenever we celebrate Mass. Once again we lift the Cross from the rocks of Calvary and plant it firmly wherever Mass is celebrated. This is why during the shutdown we continue to celebrate Mass on a daily basis – and that is why those who cannot attend Mass need to develop in their hearts a longing for the celebration so that we will never take so great a gift for granted anymore. The prayer for spiritual communion is therefore not something to remind us of what we do not have – it is there to remind us of our longing for God – and therein lies our union with him.
Last year just prior to the Easter weekend, our President appealed to us to maintain the shutdown beyond the stipulated three weeks. In his address he either directly or indirectly, through carefully crafted rhetoric, called for sacrifice. In essence what he asked for was for us to sacrifice ease of lifestyle and personal comforts for the good of others. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, we need to “live simply so that others could simply live”. This language of sacrifice is what Good Friday is all about. May our remembrance of that “old rugged cross” help us to reorder our value systems. Our liturgical practices and prayer life are meant to transform us – otherwise they become exercises in futility. The invitation is for us to embrace a new humanity which places more value on neighbourliness than on acquisition of commodities and one that can give the ecology a chance to recover. When the shutdown is over if it’s back to business as usual then we will have learned nothing.
We cannot end this reflection without thanking all those who assist the needy and those who work on the frontlines where the battle against the virus is most intense. Through your sacrifices others are empowered to live. May you be blessed for your efforts.
I wish you a deep union with Jesus who died as a lonely outcast on a hill. In this time of lockdown and the threat of death around us, you might be tempted to ask: ‘Where is God in all this?’ The answer of course is that God is still in the same place that he was when his Son was hanging on the Cross. That is why in the life of Jesus, death was not the last word. God raised him on the third day. While I cannot wish you a happy Easter, I can and I do wish you a meaningful Easter – one that will empower you to take up the challenges of this time.
Let us pray: Lord we ask for blessings on your people who honour the death of your Son, some in their parish churches, and many in their homes. In this time of shutdown with the threat of illness and infection, and with all the uncertainty and fear that this situation brings, give your people hope and empower them to reflect meaningfully on the redemption which the death and resurrection of your Son has won for us. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
We adore you O Christ and we praise you – because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town