Lara Pickford-Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Archbishop Joseph Harris has a message for the youths: Trinidad and Tobago 30 and 40 years from now will be the result of the habits they form and lives they live today.
“You are the future, I will be dead in a few years; 30 and 40 years from now you will be the ones living here, and we have to ask ourselves what type of country we will have. The kind of country we will have will depend on you,” he told the congregation at the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary December 8. Archbishop Harris cautioned that unless lives are shaped by the gospel, the country “might be a little worse” in the future.
He stressed things are “not going well” in the country with the news reporting “more murders” and government and opposition could not agree on legislation. “The country seems to be on a downward slope. In a very true sense, as people we are not producing fruit at all. Yet we say we worship a God who can change infertility into fruitfulness,” Archbishop Harris said.
Focusing on the Gospel (Lk 1:26–38), infertility and fruitfulness was the theme of his homily which he gave at the front of the altar. He said Mary only became fruitful when she told the Angel that she was willing to do whatever God wanted, and Elizabeth, long past the age of child-bearing also believed. Two women were made fertile by the power of Almighty God.
Archbishop Harris said belief was not only knowing God exists but listening to what God said and allowing this to influence and shape lives. “God did not just work two miracles. He depended on the answer of human beings, the answer of Mary, the answer of Elizabeth. It is those answers that allowed God to change infertility to fruitfulness.”
From December 4–8, Archbishop Harris conducted visits to the nation’s prisons. Mentioning the visits, he commented that even prison officers would say the conditions were inhumane. Observing a detachment from living the gospel values of Matthew 25, he said there was the thinking “if they do the crime, let them suffer”. He reminded the congregation that “the Lord identifies himself with those who suffer”, and “When you treat people like animals they will end up acting like animals”.
Alluding to statistics which indicated T&T is an angry nation, he questioned the reason for the anger and violent acts perpetrated against others. He suggested it was because people were not listening to God or allowing the Word to shape and form their lives. He added, “Our response to God is not the response of Mary or Elizabeth. God cannot change our unfruitfulness to fruitfulness and we will continue down this road unless you and I take God’s Word seriously.”
The archbishop said the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrated the fact that Mary, from the moment of her conception was free from sin. It calls on Catholics to ask themselves, “Are we producing good fruit? Can people say I am a disciple of the Lord?” He called for recommitment to authentic discipleship so there can be Trinitarian love in a country where it is said “God is a Trini”.
In attendance at the Mass were primary school pupils of the Nelson Street Boys’ and Girls’ and seminarians from the St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs seminary. The main concelebrating priests were Cathedral Administrator Msgr Christian Pereira and Msgr Esau Joseph. The gospel was proclaimed by Deacon Lennox Toussaint.