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 5 November 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 5 November 2021

Again, we honour this time of the Synod by praying the Adsumus prayer:

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. 

Perhaps, just to recap – Adsumus is a Latin term meaning a coming together. It conveys the notion of God’s people coming together in response to the call of the Spirit.

Reflection: Romans 15:14-21 and Psalm 97

Both the first reading and the Responsorial Psalm for today’s Mass articulate God’s desire for inclusivity. Paul insists that his mission is to preach to people who have not known of Christ. Although this situation, with a few exceptions, is less likely after more than twenty centuries of Christian existence, we can still locate numerous people who might have heard of Christ but have not felt his love and support simply because Christians have failed to demonstrate these qualities. This happens when we are Christians in name only and not in our lifestyles, our choices and our responses.

Perhaps a real story can help us: Many years ago I went to meet a friend who lived in a block of flats. We had planned to go to a cinema. While walking towards the stairs of the apartment block, we heard a child scream in agony. He asked me to wait for a few minutes and he knocked at the door where the commotion was coming from and said quite clearly to the woman who was beating the child that he would report her to the authorities if she did not stop abusing the child. She was his neighbour and he had repeatedly heard the effects of the child being beaten. She was stunned and after a few moments burst into tears. I found out later that his intervention had a very positive outcome. He followed it up and got that family the necessary help – both for the mother and the child. When I commended my friend for that he said that he simply did his duty as a Muslim. This is not the only time he spoke out against unfairness. He made his religion attractive as a voice in favour of the helpless. Sadly, as in our own faith, there are also many examples of religion conveying less than noble intentions.

Is it the function of religion to turn a blind eye to the suffering and victimisation of helpless people? Jesus answered this question in Mt 11:22-24 when he accused Bethsaida and Chorazin of not having converted. He makes an unfavourable comparison between these towns and the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah. The citizens of Bethsaida and Chorazin could rightly stand up and protest: “But Jesus, we did nothing” and he will say: “That’s exactly the problem – you did nothing!” Christianity is not only about avoiding evil – it is about actively doing good. This is why the Synod with its call for inclusivity is so important. It reminds us that we are not to exclude people who do not talk like us, worship like us, eat like us and dress like we do. Like my friend who heard the cry of a little one and brought about a positive change to his neighbour’s home, let’s see what we can do by standing up for the unrepresented, by speaking the kind word, by showing gratitude, etc. As the Statesman and Philosopher Edmund Burke (died 1797) noted: “evil thrives where good people do nothing”. 

There is a saying: “Charity begins at home”. Perhaps before we venture out into the neighbourhood, it will be good to take the momentum of the Synod into our own homes and listen to the various voices which comprise our home. There are people, especially the old and infirm, who are affirmed for not complaining – but when someone takes a real interest in them, real needs and aspirations are articulated. They do not complain simply because they have been conditioned not to. Sometimes it goes beyond using just the ears as some situations simply call us to be more attentive. For example a plant wilting in its dry pot ought to be listened to and given water otherwise it will die. An inactive pet could be communicating that it needs attention. Parents seem to have an instinct for this when their children need attention. Let’s see how we can practice greater attentiveness in the home so that we can live in more Christ-centred places. 

In all of this let us remember the saying of St Teresa of Avila that “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Let us pray: Father you bless us with many opportunities to imitate your own merciful attitude. You take care of us, of the flowers in the field, and of the birds of the air. Help us to imitate your love and care more and more, starting in our homes and reaching out to all creation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Bishop S. David OMI 
VG/Auxiliary Bishop – Cape Town

Posted in Prayer and Reflection.