Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 24 September 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 24 September 2021.
Let us start by praying for the fruitfulness of the upcoming Synod.
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.
Reflection: Take Courage! The Lord is with us. Haggai 1:15 – 2:9
Our reflection for today is based on one of the lesser known books of the Bible. Although not as famous as the major prophets, Haggai appeared at a strategic time in the life of the nation. Just to mention some of the background; after the return from the Exile with the intention of rebuilding the Temple (cf. Ezr 1:1-4), the people of God experienced interference from their neighbours who were opposed to their reestablishment. As a result many of the chosen people gave up on their faith. They started to experience a sense of hopelessness and lacked energy for their project of rebuilding the Temple. All this led to a delay of about twenty years in the rebuilding.
The prophet of God is never far away when God’s people experience despair and Haggai appears on the scene speaking words of hope with such conviction that within five years the Temple was rebuilt. In all this, through the careful use of rhetoric, the first reading for today’s Mass shows that God is in charge. Count the number of times in a text of a mere ten verses how many references there are to the Lord speaking. We know from our reading of Scripture that God’s word has power – it brings about what it signifies. The attentive Bible reader will be alert to this. God is on a rescue mission.
Another significant repetition is “take courage” – used three times in one verse (Hg 2:4). This is translated from “be strong” in the original and conveys the notion of prevailing and of being firm. Notice it is not to ACT strongly but to BE strong. This is the type of strength which comes from within. It is not a decorative or a superficial quality which one acquires though the use of protein supplements, but an essential component of someone believing in God. It refers to inner strength (cf. Eph 3:16). The reason for the strength according to the prophet is simply because God is with his people (Hg 2:4). God is described in the text as the God of hosts – meaning of armies. This is a literal reference to the struggles they faced with their neighbours and when read with the next verse (Hg 2:5) would have called to mind the way in which the Egyptian army was rendered powerless.
This text can strengthen us during our moments of crisis with the Pandemic having stripped us of our security and our energy. We have to face despair and hopelessness. Uncertainty can certainly undermine our wellbeing. The message is that no matter how hopeless the experience of alienation is, there will be a new beginning. We will pick up the pieces and reconstruct our lives. But the trick is never to give up. We are called to hold firm simply because we are people of faith. We must never give up on Christ as he will never give up on us.
The text calls us not to fear (Hg 2:5). This reminds us of a prayer we say fairly often in the liturgy – normally as a responsorial psalm during times of sorrow and alienation. This prayer is the much read and revered 23rd psalm which came out of King David’s experience of deep sorrow and alienation. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” The syntax of the original indicates that because the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. The fourth verse of the psalm refers to a journey through a dark valley (Ps 23:4). The word for “dark” in the original indicates the deepest darkness the human heart can ever know. Even there God is with us. And should we not feel his presence as strongly as we would like to, let us call to mind the abandonment Jesus felt when he was on the Cross, asking in effect: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34). The alienation which we feel can be a means of union with Christ. The voice of faith reminds us that in our feelings of alienation God is still in the same place he occupied when his Son was on the Cross.
Our first reading encourages us to “be strong” and to listen to the voice of faith. Having faith is one thing. Allowing the faith to work in us is something else altogether and for that to happen we have no choice but to stand firm, be strong, and take heart (cf. Dt 31:6, Jos 1:9, Ps 27:14, 1 Cor 16:13). Our first reading from the prophet Haggai speaks meaningfully during our time of distress.
Let us pray: Father give us the grace to stand firmly in our faith tradition when life becomes difficult. With faith help us to cope and also to help others who are in distress. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town