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 20 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 20 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. 

Reflection based on Ruth 1:1,3-6,14-16,22

Our first reading is taken from fragments of the first chapter of the book of Ruth. A thorough reading of the fist chapter from your Bibles is recommended. Read it slowly and prayerfully. Note the struggle of the family, note the neediness which took them to Moab. Undoubtedly the early readers of the work would have remembered how their ancestors also had to leave their homes and go to look for food. Once in Moab the sons marry Moabite women. 

The names in the story are all significant. Elimelech literally means “my God is King”. Irrespective of where the faithful find themselves, God still reigns over them. Naomi means “a pleasant person”, who shows herself to be an exceptional mother-in-law (Ruth 1:7-18). At the end of the chapter, Naomi renames herself Mara which means “bitter”. Life sometimes does leave scars on us. The sons are called Mahlon and Chilon. While the former means “sickness/weakness”, the latter means “pining/destruction”. This is symbolic and points to their untimely deaths. Orpah means “neck” – read in some circles as “stiff neck”. This seems a bit unfair as Orpah showed a willingness to go with Naomi. Ruth means “friend” and has come to symbolise abiding loyalty and devotion. She is fully incorporated in the family of God’s chosen people and her name is included in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:5) as the great grandmother of King David. Earlier on I recommended a reading of the whole of the first chapter. Let’s revise that. Read the whole book of Ruth. It is very short with only four chapters but it makes very interesting reading, with all its intrigue. The ultimate lesson is that anyone who obeys God is acceptable – whether they belong to the clan or not. But you can read the story for yourselves and make your own discoveries.

For now I want to look at how our first reading ends. Whereas at the start of the reading, there was famine causing the family to migrate, at the end of the reading we are told that Naomi and Ruth – the two widows, return to Bethlehem “at the beginning of the barley harvest” (Ruth 1:22). This indicates a new beginning and is fitting because Bethlehem literally means “the house of bread”. The rest of the book will show how God takes care of the poor through his faithful servants. Boaz (whose name means “in him is strength”) is exemplary in all of this – and he too is listed as an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:5). 

It is good to know all this. But it is even more important to allow the story to reveal who I am. We mentioned the names and their meanings. These meanings were tied to the characteristics of the persons. What are my characteristics? What am I known for: Strength or its opposite; friendship or its opposite; helpfulness or its opposite? Who in the story best represents me? We also see in the story the embracing of otherness. How do I see my “in-laws” i.e. those who come into the family, and others who are different to me? This story can be used like a mirror, with every character offering a chance to get a deeper glimpse not only of who I am but also of who I am called to be. I wish you well as you see how your lived experience squares up with the template of this inspired book.

Let us pray: Lord, your Word teaches us how to live with otherness and how to show fidelity in the various circumstances of our lives. Give us the grace to imitate the Biblical heroes held up before us in the reading. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town

Posted in Prayer and Reflection.

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