Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 16 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 Friday 16 April 2021. Second Friday of Easter
This post is based on the one I offered on the second Friday of Easter last year. I composed another for today but felt that this one contains a few basic insights which we all need to embrace, remember and retain. And so with a few updates, additions and revisions, I present the reflection:
Today we start our annual Easter pilgrimage through the sixth chapter of John. Over the next few days up to Saturday of next week, the Church gives us an opportunity to meditate on John’s teaching on the Eucharist during our daily Mass. If I may be bold enough to offer some advice: I recommend at least two readings of the whole of John 6 over the next two weeks. Read the whole chapter at one go 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 5-12 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 desperate 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, those who have to answer the doorbell to someone desperate for food, 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 Bishop Barry had 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 is mentioned twice in the passage. This 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 notes that the crowd followed Jesus because of the signs he had done not with the sick but ‘with the weak’ (John 6:3). 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 or a preacher – that will come later. At this point he 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. During this time in the life of our local Church, through parish efforts and through Caritas Cape Town, efforts are being made to feed those 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. When the poor make available what they have in the presence of Jesus, there is more than enough. The sharing taking place in some parts of the Archdiocese, through self sustaining gardening projects, bears testimony to this.
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.
To conclude I wish to draw attention to the role of Andrew in this passage. He introduces the boy with fishes and loaves to Jesus. Whenever we find Andrew in the the Gospel of John he is introducing someone to Jesus. He introduces his brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:41), together with Philip he introduces some Greeks to Jesus (John 12:22) – (isn’t it interesting that Philip first takes the Greeks to Andrew?) And in today’s passage he introduces the boy with food to Jesus (John 6:8). Andrew is literally the public relations officer of the apostolic group. It is interesting to make this observation but what is important is this: Who have we introduced to Jesus? I wish you a meaningful reading of John 6.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town