Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 13 August 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 13th August 2021.
I once again wish to start by saying the prayer 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.
We are encouraged to pray the peace prayer often.
Ps 50 (51) The Miserere – the prayer of the contrite of heart
The Church’s morning prayer comprises, in addition to scripture readings and versicles, two psalms and a canticle. On Fridays our first psalm is the miserere – a prayer of contrition which also expresses a desire for renewal. Like other forms of biblical literature, the psalms were not composed in a vacuum but were embedded in the real life circumstances of the Nation and very frequently the King. Psalm 50 articulates the lived experience of King David.
The background to this psalm is described in the historical OT book, the second book of Samuel. This is a wonderful opportunity to catch up on some Bible reading. Read 2 Samuel 11 – 12. In 2 Sam 11, David is shown to have neglected his duty, not to have been abstemious during a war, committing adultery out of which arose a pregnancy, covering up the sin by having Uriah killed, and then marrying Bathsheba. Sin can sometimes develop a momentum of its own and can lead its perpetrator to act in whatever way possible to hide the sin. We see this is manipulation, bribery, and the like – especially where persons with power misuse their positions.
But the prophet of God (or, the word of God) is not far away. In 2 Sam 12, the prophet knocked at David’s door. When God acceded to Israel’s request for a king, he also sent along the prophet who was to correct the king when the latter strayed off course. Unbridled power is not good. By means of a parable the prophet Nathan gets David to see what he had done.
It will be worthwhile here to see how God acts towards the sinner. One gets a full picture when looking at the words for justice in the OT. There is one word which means to punish the guilty. This is normally acted out in human courts. But God acts differently as shown by another word. God gives the guilty a chance to reflect and to make amends. Pharaoh refused and was doomed. King David accepted the second chance, survived and even thrived – so much so that his and Bathsheba’s names occur in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5-6). To put it colloquially, God can write straight with crooked lines!
But back to our story. After Nathan’s confrontation of David, the latter repents (2 Samuel 12:13ff). He showed all the signs of a repentant sinner and trusted in God’s mercy. This is when he composed the psalm which is still in use among the faithful today. When this psalm is uttered with humility and knowledge of our brokenness, it becomes an authentic prayer:
“Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin….”
“Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow…
A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit…
… my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn…”
This is both a prayer for forgiveness and also a prayer of humble trust that God will be God and offer us mercy. I wish you a joyful celebration of the gift of God’s forgiving love.
Let us pray: Father, bless us with contrite hearts so that we may joyfully receive your forgiveness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town.