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 July 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 23 July 2021.

Our concluding prayer at Mass this week reads as follows:
“Graciously be present to your people, we pray, O Lord,
and lead those you have imbued with heavenly mysteries
to pass from former ways to newness of life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

It is easy to go through the proper of the Mass in a routine way and so run the risk of not seeing what the Church has in mind for us. The concluding prayer for Mass this week reminds us that the sacraments (heavenly mysteries) work by transforming us. Rather than work magic in our lives, the Eucharist strengthens and transforms us to face the challenges which come our way. The prayer is for the Lord to lead us “from former ways to newness of life”. 

In concrete terms in our struggle against the Covid 19 pandemic we have to show a change of lifestyle. Christians are called to model the right behaviour by embracing all the restrictions that have been recommended to us in order to prevent loss of life. The best way in which I can show love to those around me is to keep them safe.

St Paul in dealing with the consequences for those who have been justified by Christ (cf. Romans 1:16-17) has this to say: “I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people. Do not model your behaviour on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God what is good and acceptable and mature” (Romans 12:1-2).

The original text is most informative. Firstly, the offering of the bodies in Romans 12:1 has to be reasoned (translated as “sensible”) and not based on superstition, conspiracy theories and the like. Secondly, this is done collectively – in other words we do it with each other and for each other. Accountability before God to whom our sacrifice is offered, is also accountability before the neighbour. The first question to fly into the face of the creator came from the murderous Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And throughout the bible God’s answer is a definite “Yes – you are your brother’s keeper. You are your sister’s keeper”.

Romans 12:2 contains two imperatives – meaning that we cannot be Christian if we do not carry out these commands. Firstly we are asked not to model our behaviour on prevailing views. Secondly we are asked to let the renewing of our minds – in other words our conversion, transform us. So, we are not to conform to our favourite models but to transform ourselves. The NT term used to indicate this is the word from which we get the term “metamorphosis”. It refers to an authentic transformation. It is a genuine change willed by God. This means a revolution in terms of one’s behaviour so as to conform to the image of Christ. For the Christian this implies a tuning in to the action of the Spirit of God which dwells within. 

Our Archbishop’s call for us to experience a behaviour change in order to deal with Covid 19 is deeply rooted in Scripture.

Let us pray: Lord we turn to you in our need. Apart from the pandemic, we also suffer other struggles such as violence and hatred. We have seen the devastating effects of human greed but thankfully we also witness the greatness human kindness and endurance. Help us to practice the kind of behaviours which please you. May we offer ourselves in ways that are acceptable to you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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