Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 15th May 2020, 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 during lockdown: Friday 15th May 2020.
Why is it important to adopt protective measures against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic? There are a few considerations.
First and foremost it makes sense to do so. Suppose notice was given that there was a deadly snake on the loose in a certain park – apart from professional snake handlers, which of us will go near that park, let alone venture into it? Considering the nature of snakes, there is more chance of the snake disappearing than our being bitten. With the Coronavirus, there is a far greater chance of becoming infected if we do not take precautions such as hand washing, social distancing, and the other measures recommended for this time.
Sadly, looking around us, some are foolish enough to ignore the recommendations. In places where there is hardly any space between dwellings, where there is no clean water, etc. like in some informal settlements one can understand this, but what about our shopping malls which according to our health ministry is where most infections take place? Perhaps it is the fact that we cannot see a microbe which is only a fraction of the size of a hair follicle that makes us careless. A deadly snake we can see – sometimes a bit too late I agree, but Covid-19 we cannot see until it is too late.
In all this we must remember that we take precautions for two reasons – the first is to protect our own lives and well being; and the second is to protect those with whom we come into contact. In nthis regard we will do well to bear in mind that although we may be symptom free, we could still be carriers. Just going out whenever we feel like it can bring the virus into our homes. This is particularly serious where senior citizens and vulnerable persons such as diabetics are involved. The command by God: “Thou shall not to kill” has never been revoked – it is still valid. That we should not kill means that we ought to promote life. The Church is pro-life. This has always been the case. Being pro-life is far more that protesting against abortions. Apart from our anti-abortion stance which is absolutely necessary, we have to commit to promoting life all through the life span – we must exist so that people with whom we associate have life and have it to the full (cf. John 10:10). In that way we imitate Jesus.
In the book of Genesis the first question to fly into the face of the Creator comes from the murderous Cain: “Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4:9). Throughout the rest of the bible, the answer is a resounding “YES” – we are our brother’s keep and our sister’s keeper.
In the Gospel reading for today’s Mass taken from John 15, Jesus reminds us that we are meant to love the neighbour. Using the example of his own life he says that no one can have greater love than to lay down his or her life for the other (cf. John 15:13). This is the love we are meant to imitate. The word used for love indicates a love that is self sacrificial. It is more than a nice feeling and certainly does not ask: “what’s in it for me?”. This love is for the good of the other and for the benefit of the other. It is meant to protect them from infections even if it that makes me uncomfortable and restless. This is the high calling of the followers of Jesus – to love as he himself loved.
Let us pray: Father, your Son gave us an example of what love is all about. His love was the opposite of selfishness and personal gain. Help us to imitate him in such a way the good news may be lived out through each of us. We make this prayer through Him who gave his life so that we could live. Amen.
Following your snake analogy, I think of the common phase “snake in the grass.” Amid this virus’s onslaught and in its dark shadow of social-economic consequences, we might do well to ask who are the snakes in the grass. In this crisis, what friendly Pollyanna word or which familiar public face is treacherous, appealing yet deceitful? When has my own tired and long-quarantined spirit become treacherous under the title of reasonableness or common sense?
The real danger of the snake in the grass is that it appears so friendly and cozy and reasonable and comforting. Its poison is in its sensibleness. Within the onerousness of quarantine, we seek a reasonable way out.
Your call for us to protect our selves and others is first a call to honestly… you spoke of that snake we avoid by staying out of the garden, the most dangerous snake is the snake in grass. The most poisonous words are “we’ve over reacted.” In all honesty, we cannot protect ourselves without protecting others.
What is reassuring is how much our being reasonable to and with one another matches our call as followers of Christ.