It continues to be a trying time in Trinidad and Tobago. On Wednesday morning, citizens were engrossed in the unfolding story of the early-morning rescue of 69 people held in cages equipped with chains and handcuffs.
The centre/church claimed to be a rehabilitative space for drug addicts and the mentally unwell but from the video released by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, the victims were treated with no degree of dignity and in clear contravention of human rights.
Then earlier this week was the horrifying story of seven diabetic people who were blinded by a tainted drug injected into their eyes, and which, due to the level of infection in some cases, led to the removal of the infected eye.
The drug was brought in through illegitimate means by the supplier and disseminated to doctors. The supplier has since been banned from participating in government tenders; and the victims? Those who needed it got their eye-removal surgery free of charge. That’s it.
For such a small island, there is much that makes you sit back and wonder ‘How did we get here and how do we get out of it?’.
The hashtag-thinking of ‘Trinidad is not a real place’ has now become a Monopoly-like boardgame of the same name, perhaps symptomatic of the almost frivolous manner with which serious issues are sometimes approached, barring the initial outrage that peppers any negative event.
The question of how we emerge from this slippery slope of anything goes should be at the forefront of any discussion.
That the above-mentioned occurs during this the Extraordinary Month of Mission should resonate with every Catholic as it puts a magnifying glass on how much in need of renewal we are.
In the homily at the Vatican on the opening of the Synod on the Pan-Amazon Region, Pope Francis prayed that the spirit of Jesus may “inspire our synod to renew the paths of the church in Amazonia, so that the fire of mission will continue to burn”.
He continues: “Now we walk under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Now we must let the Holy Spirit express himself in this assembly, express himself among us, express himself with us, through us, and express himself despite us.”
The Pope also warned against the gift of ministry turning into ashes with maintaining a defensive posture: “…’this is the way things have always been done,’ then the gift vanishes, smothered by the ashes of fear and concern for defending the status quo.”
The pontiff gestures to a triad of the movement forward: belief, openness and renewal.
It is a similar process that occurs with the ten lepers in this Sunday’s gospel story, who approach Christ in a brief encounter. They called Him “Master” suggesting both belief and openness. Their renewal—physical for the nine, more than for the Samaritan—is recorded as they obeyed His command and hurried forward to the priests.
The fire of mission is desperately needed in all contemporary spheres. The theme of the month emphasises such: on mission in the World. The mission, as the Pope explained, is not about “lofty ethical teaching” or “religious ideology”.
It is about using the gifts of Christ and His Church and finding and executing these gifts in an impactful way. It means humbly recognising the unsuccessful and outmoded methods of thinking and communicating and dispensing with rather than defending them.
How does this translate to matters of State and country? It cannot help but do so. The introduction to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states succinctly: “Men and women who are made ‘new’ by the love of God are able to change the rules and the quality of relationships, transforming even social structures” (4).
We can all agree that there are social and individual mores and structures in dire need of transformation.