God has blessed the “vineyard” of Trinidad and Tobago with natural resources, but its renters have operated as though they are the owners, says Archbishop Joseph Harris.
Reflecting on the readings at last Sunday’s Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Archbishop said the country had “oil, asphalt and fertile soil”, but as in the First Reading (Is 5:1–7), the expected fruit from the vineyard was not being produced. He said with its resources, every citizen should be benefitting as God did not give this country its resources for the benefit of a few. “But today the gap between rich and poor is larger, there are people living in abject poverty; there are people who don’t share; and people who want to be like those who have plenty. Why?”
The Archbishop said the answer was in the Gospel (Mt 21:33–43), as each citizen was called to be an administrator but “we have begun to think [of] ourselves as an owner”, and owners do what they want. “We are not owners. We are administrators,” he asserted, and God has given us the resources to manage, “not only for ourselves”. The goods and resources were not meant to be hoarded: “we are called to share and share wisely”.
He told the congregation that everyone should have good health care and education but “that is not happening because we have taken the vineyard for ourselves”. He reminded all of the parables, like the rich man and Lazarus, and joked that after 50 years in the priesthood he had never seen a million dollars in a coffin, only a dead body, inferring that when people die they cannot take material things with them.
Referring to the Second Reading (Phil 4:6–9), the Archbishop commented that we should “fill our minds with noble thoughts, not thoughts of getting richer” and if we think like Christ and adopt His attitudes, when we die God will recognise the image of His son in us.
Archbishop Harris remarked that T&T cannot be saved by the recently delivered Budget, which will not cut the gap between rich and poor, nor ensure equality. The only thing that will save us is to “change the heart in each of us; begin to love as Christ loved – think of the other before we think of ourselves”. He ended saying the Gospel called each person to self-examination: “Am I like those who leased the vineyard, or am I ready to administer the goods of the vineyard for the benefit of all?”
Citing the lives of saints, he said the good news was there are people who have done that, “there are people capable of putting on the mind of Christ. And if others can put it on, we can put it on”.
Among the Sunday morning congregation were regional delegates in Trinidad for a week-long training workshop of the Biblical Animation of All Pastoral Life programme or ABP (the Spanish acronym, Animación Biblica de la Pastoral, is used) at the Emmaus Centre, Arima.
Concelebrating clergy included Bishop Lawrence Nicasio of Belize City and Belmopan; Fr Damian Nannini, the director of the bible school for the South American Conference of Catholic bishops (CELAM), and Fr John Persaud, General Secretary, Antilles Episcopal Conference.
Seated in the congregation with other delegates were Deacon Mike James, Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Catholic Bible Federation, and his wife Maria Díaz-James, Caribbean Coordinator.
Before the final blessing, Archbishop Harris encouraged the faithful to purchase a small Bible to keep on their person and read scripture whenever they had to wait. And for those with smartphones, he suggested they download the Bible onto their phones. “Let God’s word animate your everyday life.” – Raymond Syms, Editor