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 30 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 30 July 2021. Freedom to love. Text for reflection – John 13:34-35.

I would like to start by praying for peace in Southern Africa:

O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa,
and help us to live in your peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.

Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;

For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others.

We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

During this time of unrest, mistrust and now rebuilding, let us pray more often and more fervently.

The text I wish to comment on comes from the command Jesus gave us to love one another. I was reminded of this text through one of the intercessions (the third one) for the Church’s morning prayer for today viz. “Guide our thoughts, our words, our actions: so that what we do today may be pleasing to you.” 

How do we live out this intercession which we pray? The answer is that we live it out in our relationships with the neighbour. Our love of the neighbour does not exist in a vacuum nor in attractive sayings that one finds on greeting cards. It is a lot more practical, and in its essence, is what discipleship is all about. It is always embedded in a context and speaks to every occasion. What then is our context? Or to put it scripturally, what is the mood of this time (cf. Ecclesiastes 3)?

On 25 July 2021, President Ramaphosa announced an easing of the Lockdown restrictions. We moved from Level Four to Level Three. We now have greater freedom. But with greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Freedom after all, is not freedom to do just anything – it is freedom to do the right thing. The right thing at this time is to exercise the Church’s teachings about being pro-life. In this regard, the text of Deuteronomy 30:15-20 is very significant. The very fact that we can now gather – albeit in limited numbers, does not mean that we are free to do as we like. In Christian terms we have to make sacrifice for the neighbour. 

Freedom without corresponding responsibility is not freedom simply because in the context of a pandemic it can lead to an uncontrolled spread of the virus which has now mutated into a rapidly transmissible and destructive force. The very fact that we can gather compels us to act with greater responsibility. Even with the restrictions, during the last week of Lockdown Level Four we have received reports of several infections among the laity and several priests have also tested positive. Mahatma Gandhi noted that: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Last week when I commented on our moral responsibility to keep the neighbour safe, I noted: “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’.”

When speaking of this time of infections, medical scientists have informed us that we are called to exercise responsibility now so that we can have a brighter future. With the increased roll out of the vaccine there is a sense of optimism – so it is not all doom and gloom. We do what we have to at this time so as to achieve liberation in the future. Jesus uses the analogy of suffering so as to achieve greater joy in John 16:21. In Matthew 22:37-39, he sums up the love of neighbour as a great commandment. It is after all by our love that we will be recognised as his disciples (cf. John 13:34-35). The word for love in this verse indicates a self sacrificial love lived out for the good of the neighbour.

Let us pray: Merciful God, right now we experience pain and suffering. We have no one but you to turn to for relief for ourselves and our loved ones. Send us your Spirit to teach us how to cope, so that we may keep ourselves and each other safe. Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Lord, above all give us the gifts of patience and perseverance. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop of Cape Town

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