Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 14 May 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 14 May 2021. First Reading: Acts 1:15-17; 20-26.
Today the Church holds before us the example of the Apostle St Matthias. He was not one of the original twelve but was chosen to complete the number of persons in the apostolic college after the defection of Judas. Peter, quoting Psalm 109:8 declares: “Let another take his place” (Act 1:20). Scripture simply has to be fulfilled (Acts 1:16).
The way in which the passage starts is interesting: Peter arising “in those days” (Acts 1:15) addresses the crowd of 120 persons – there was no need for social distancing in those days! Peter is the spokesman for the group. The word for “arising” is a resurrection word. He, who was afraid and disowned Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75), is now empowered by the resurrection. Another seemingly small point, but one with a great deal of meaning, is the narrator’s use of “in those days”. The attentive bible reader will be tempted to ask: “In which days?” – and, if attentive enough, will recognise this phrase as a signal pointing to the time when God will bring about a renewal. It is used in a concentrated way when the New Covenant is announced in Jeremiah 31:31-34. This is the only time in the Old Testament that the term “New Covenant” is used. There is a special technical term for this, and it is a clear indication that scripture has to be read repeatedly.
We come across the formula again when Mary conceives. Immediately, she arises “in those days” and makes her way to the hill country (Luke 1:39). Once again, the word indicating “arises” is a resurrection word – indicating that as soon as one says “yes” to God it becomes possible to share in the resurrection. The attentive bible reader will take note that through the use of “in those days” the new covenant is to continue through the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) and the consequent Incarnation. In today’s first reading we are informed that despite the betrayal of Judas, the New Covenant will continue through the mission of the Church. Nothing will stop the plan of God. Once again, “scripture has to be fulfilled” (Acts 1:16).
The mandate given by Peter is that the replacement should be someone who “accompanied them” (Acts 1:21) the whole time and was an eyewitness to the events from the Baptism of Jesus to the Ascension. Two were presented, lots were cast, and Matthias was chosen to be an Apostle. The method of drawing lots to select a candidate for an office in the Church is unusual in our time, but it was a recognised Jewish custom in NT times. The priest who was to enter the Temple sanctuary and burn incense as did Zechariah when the announcement of John’s birth was made (Luke 1:9), was chosen not on a rotational basis but by lot. Random events, independent of any obvious natural or human cause, were seen as an expression of the Divine will. About the drawing of lots, the Universalis application version 2.107 indicates for the feast of Matthias that: “Drawing lots was not a substitute for human decision… but a way of putting the final choice into the hands of God”. Human choice was already made when it was decided which candidates to choose from, and which priests should serve in the Temple.
The App continues: “When we attain some high or responsible position, we may be tempted to congratulate ourselves on being the best candidate for the job. We would do well to remember that we have got there because of the people we have met and the things we have found ourselves doing, and, more fundamentally, because of the gifts and talents that God has given us. These things are essentially random: like Matthias, we have been chosen by lot”. Ultimately we have been chosen not because we are good but because God is good.
I wish you joy as you contemplate the ways in which God wishes to use your gifts and talents.
Let us pray: O God, who assigned Saint Matthias a place in the college of Apostles, grant us, through his intercession, that, rejoicing at how your love has been allotted to us, we may merit to be numbered among the elect. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Blessing].
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town