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 27 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.

Friday of the 21st Week. 

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. 

Gospel Passage: Mt 25:1-13. PLEASE READ THE TEXT.

This story seen through 21st century South African eyes seems like a concocted fairy-tale but seen in the context of a Palestinian village of the 1st century, every detail rings true. Ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom – who would always try to catch the bridal retinue unprepared. Even as late as the 20th century, the exact time of the arrival of the bridegroom was uncertain. But back to the virgins – the passage breaks them up into opposites. Five were foolish (the word used is the one from which we get the word “moron”), and five were wise. There are many words for wisdom and the word used here is the direct opposite of a moron. It means intelligent and with foresight. There is a lesson here for those prophets of mediocrity who think that intelligence has no part to play in our Christian lives.

Whatever the case, the morons took lamps but not oil. No one was allowed onto the streets after sunset without a lighted lamp. This means that the welcoming of the bridegroom would definitely be incomplete. It is also worth noting that word for oil indicates olive oil, oil for anointing, and also figuratively, it was a symbol of festivity. What is communicated here is that the festivities were ruined through the foolishness of being unprepared. 

There are times in everyone’s life when preparation is of utmost importance. For example it is pointless to prepare for an examination at the last minute. Even more pressing is the reality that we could die unexpectedly. The saddest thing about unexpected death is that important matters could be left unresolved. For those who are left behind, how terrible not to have sought and offered forgiveness while there was still a chance. Death does have an awful finality about it. The advice of the passage is to “keep awake” (Matthew 25:13) – in other words to be prepared at all times. I wish you well as we prepare to meet the bridegroom. 

Today the Church also holds up before us the shining example of St Monica – a faithful woman who had a very difficult life. She was the mother of the great St Augustine whose feast we celebrate tomorrow. When Augustine was young he led a rather reckless life. Monica’s wisdom was not to repeatedly confront him but to turn the matter over to God ‘aloud and also in silent tears’. She practiced the virtue of patience as the years rolled on and never gave up on God. The end result was the marvellous conversion of her Son. Today we must pray for all mothers who have difficult children to raise and encourage them to learn from the example of St Monica – never to give up on God as he never gives up on us.

Let us pray: Lord, help us in our daily lives to be prepared to meet the bridegroom. Help us to give and seek forgiveness, love and friendship while it still matters and can be appreciated by those to whom we extend our hands. So often we want to do what is good but pride steps in the way. Help us to be humble so that we can make a difference to those around us – while they are still alive. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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