By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ (http://rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI
“It is the duty of citizens to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom. The love and service of one’s country follow from the duty of gratitude and belong to the order of charity. Submission to legitimate authorities and service of the common good require citizens to fulfill their roles in the life of the political community.” (CCC 2239)
On Thursday, August 31, we will celebrate 55 years of Independence. Let us give thanks to God for our democracy, our freedom and for the many gifts that He has bestowed upon us. Remember with gratitude those who laboured in the vineyard and sacrificed much to gain our Independence. Reflect on how far we have come and what we need to do to go forward.
In 2 Corinthians 3:17–18 we read: “Now this Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect…”
Are we allowing the Spirit of the Lord to flow in and through us so that ALL will be free in T&T? After 55 years of Independence, are our faces reflecting the brightness of the Lord? Indeed, are we turning into the image that we reflect? It will take us our entire lifetime to achieve this goal. We will fall many times because of our human frailty, but we must not give up. If the seed of our faith was sown in good soil, we will strive to live by the tenets of our faith.
Let us reflect on how our politicians are using their talents to build the common good. To build a truly independent nation requires all hands on deck; it requires all of us to acknowledge not only our rights, but also our responsibilities. Pope St John Paul II rightly reminded us that: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
We live in an age in which moral relativism threatens our very freedom/dignity. Catholics believe that there are objective moral norms which apply to all people at all times. Moral relativists believe that morality is subjective – if it feels good, do it! Can you imagine what would happen if each of us does what we like just because it ‘feels good’? Our independent nation is threatened by such thinking which is often linked to greed, and individualism. Many in T&T have lost their moral moorings and the values that underpin their behaviour is leading to pain and suffering for many citizens.
And let us not forget that, as John Donne said in his famous poem 401 years ago: “No man is an island entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” Too many of us strive to have a vertical relationship with God without recognising the fact that on the day of Judgement, we will be judged on the kind of relationship we had with our neighbour, particularly on the ‘least’ among us – not only locally, but globally.
We have a duty to promote right relationships between all individuals, peoples, and nations. While T&T does not experience the kinds of conflict/wars that disfigure our age, we have a host of problems that need our urgent attention – including the need to rebuild our failing institutions.
As we move into our 56th year of Independence, let us commit to promoting values such as love, integrity, discipline, production, tolerance, responsibility, hospitality, courage, and compassion/respect for the dignity of each person. These are values that will inspire us as we seek to build a nation in which Lazarus can sit at the table of the rich man; a nation in which human rights are respected and poverty/social exclusion will be a thing of the past; one in which equity and equality will underpin legislation, policies and practices; and truly human conditions will be created so that all God’s children can benefit from the abundance of resources that we have been given by the Almighty.
I end with the words of Pope Francis (2015): “In commending Trinidad and Tobago to the merciful love of Almighty God, I pray that all may continue to work together for a peaceful society based on solidarity and justice.” Happy Independence Day!