Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 12 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.
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.
Reflection: Text for reflection: Mt 10:39
This text comes from the communion antiphon for today’s Mass on the feast of St Josaphat the Martyr. The text reads: “Whoever loses his life for my sake, will find it in eternity, say the Lord.” Josaphat, a Bishop, lost his life for the sake of Christ in the 17th century. Because he worked for unity among the followers of Christ, he was subjected to mob violence and lost his life. Josaphat is an important symbol in today’s Church as we strive for unity. At the end of last month, an ecumenical group gathered at St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town to celebrate the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Federation on 31st October 1999 in Augsburg, Germany. This gathering was a sharp reminder to us that the disunity among Christians is perhaps the biggest betrayal of Jesus. It goes against everything he lived for, died and rose for, and sent the Holy Spirit for.
Read, for example, the words of his priestly prayer in Jn 17:21-24 “May they all be one, just as, Father, you are in me and I am in you, so that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me. I have given them the glory you gave to me, that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so perfected in unity that the world will recognise that it was you who sent me and that you have loved them as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they may always see my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Josaphat lived in a time of schisms. These schisms did not serve the Church. They entrenched political powers and the consequent entitlement these powers enjoyed. Near the end of the 16th century, one of the Orthodox churches entered into communion with Rome – a happy event surely, but not for all as the supporters of the aristocracy formed a further schism and defended their stance with violence. One sees this nowadays in situations where all of life becomes politicized. Where one finds strong oppositional attitudes based not on the good of the people but on ideologies, this kind of violence can and does arise. It brings shame upon the face of Christ whose desire is for us to be united.
What can we do against these divisions? There are a few avenues we could follow. We could learn about the belief systems of the various groups. We can pray and enter into dialogue. We will find that there is a lot more that we have in common than are the features which separate us. Not all dialogue ends with perfect accord. That in itself ought not to be a problem as we can and should agree to disagree – but not abandon the dialogue and the working together in such projects as alleviating hunger, caring for the neighbour, and working for a better society.
In particular, the Synod process which we have engaged in ought to empower us to appreciate the diversity that exists among us. Religion is meant to lead us to God and not to be a cause of division and hatred. As with all wars, where hatred replaces dialogue there can be no winners – only losers, and our religious systems collapse because they fail to foster unity. But where we are prepared to lose our selves for Christ’s sake, we will achieve eternal life (Mt 10:39).
Let us pray: Lord, help us to be one so that the prayer of Jesus might be realised in us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop S. David OMI
VG/Auxiliary Bishop: Cape Town