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 23 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.

Bishop S. David OMI. Friday 23 April 2021. Text for reflection 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

As we prepare for the Eucharistic Congress in September 2021, I share on how to celebrate the Lord’s presence with us in practical ways. 

We live in a world that is saturated with words. Words can do two things. They can build or they can destroy. Words which convey hatred, untruth, jealousy, obscenity, division and gossip are words which destroy. In many places around the world, ideologies are built on lies. People act on lies. Jesus is clear in the Gospel of John that the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44). 

St Paul tells us “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you. And do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad; for the Spirit is God’s mark of ownership on you, a guarantee that the Day will come when God will set you free. Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort” (Ephesians 4:29-31). When we use destructive language the Spirit of God can never feel at home in us. All this is a clear invitation to us to change our speech patterns to reflect the character of the baptised. We must train ourselves to avoid lies, gossip and obscenities. It is quite easy to stand at a pulpit and say e.g. do not gossip. But we need to help people to stop gossiping. How do we do that? Well – who gossips? A person who has a negative self esteem will always feel inferior and in order to make him or herself feel good, will have a need to make others look bad. The only way to get over that habit is to learn that each of us is loved by God. 

After the resurrection Jesus appears several times. Even when the Apostles had doubts and were huddled in fear Jesus appeared to them and his appearance dispelled their fear as he gave them that familiar greeting: “Peace be with you”. But did he ever appear to Herod, the Chief Priests or the Pharisees? Never. He never appears to the proud. Similarly when we use the wrong type of language our hearts become like the empty tomb of which the angel said: “He is not here”. What then is the right type of language? Notice in Luke’s gospel Jesus appears to people who were talking about their encounter with him in his word and in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:36). In this time when we anticipate the Eucharistic Congress it is important to see that the Mass offers us the same template. We listen to his word, and then just as he did, we (i) take the bread, (ii) say the blessing, (iii) break the bread, and (iv) share it. These are the four Eucharistic actions of the Church and these are steeped in Scripture. We are given the same gifts that were given to the Apostles. And it is only when we can give words to our encounter with him that he will become present to us. The instances of the taking, blessing, breaking and sharing of the bread occur well before the paschal celebrations (e.g. Mark 6:41; Mark 8:6), during the Passover ritual (Luke 22:19), and also afterwards (e.g. Luke 24:30-31). 

It is very interesting that after the first miracle of the loaves (Mark 6:34:44), they failed to recognise him and thought he was a ghost (Mark 6:49). Why this failure? Mark answers it for us: They had not understood the breaking of the bread (Mark 6:52). Whereas in this case they thought he was a ghost, after the resurrection, he was thought to be a stranger. Prior to the breaking of the bread we are told that “their eyes were prevented from recognising him” (Luke 24:16). Their eyes were only opened when he broke the bread (Luke 24:30-31) and then their hearts were burning within them (Luke 24:32).

Luke 24:48 declares that “You are witnesses to this.” That is why the dismissal at the end of Mass is in fact a sending: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. / Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”. We are witnesses to the work of Christ in our lives. And when we act on that reality and learn to love, accept, and forgive, our homes become transformed and we can rightly profess that he was buried in the tomb but now risen in our families. In this regard let us recall what we heard at the Easter vigil: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). What was in Galilee? Galilee was where they lived and worked – in other words in the experience of our everyday lives we have the capacity to encounter the risen Lord.

Let us pray: Lord we thank you for the many ways in which Jesus shows himself to us. Open our eyes to see him. Help us to so understand the breaking of the bread that our witness to his presence may bring blessings to others. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. [Blessing].

Bishop Sylvester David OMI 
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town

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