By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
As thousands prepare to ‘play’ themselves over the next two days of Carnival, CCSJ urges citizens and visitors to our blessed T&T to exercise self-control and modesty in dress and behaviour during this Carnival season.
A lack of modesty creates a fertile ground for individuals to rid themselves of social responsibility or ethical standards. If we don’t accept our own worth as individuals and pursue personal excellence, how will we build positive relations with others?
This Sunday’s gospel, Matthew 5:38–48, which is part of the chapter that focuses on the Sermon on the Mount, is a good guide on which to reflect as we enter the two days of revelry.
Note that the new standard set by Jesus is higher than the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses. The scene is set when we read earlier in verse 20, Jesus’ warning to His followers: “For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
Our Catechism (1803) defines ‘virtue’ as a “habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions”.
The gospel reading ends with the words: “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). We may never attain true perfection because of our human frailty, but this should not be an obstacle in our efforts to live virtuous/righteous lives.
“It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience… The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience” (CCC 1779–1780).
During Carnival, let us demonstrate that we are a people of dignity; a people who abhor reckless behaviour and who practise self-respect, respect for others and responsibility for all our actions.
And if such action requires us to swim against the tide, then let us be strong and determined not to model ourselves on the behaviour of the world around us, but let our behaviour change, modelled by our new mind (Rom 12:2).
A sense of decorum seems to fly through the window at Carnival time. There seems to be no shame or embarrassment by those who are improperly dressed or who engage in lewd dancing.
Those who fall prey to moral relativism believe that anything goes nowadays. If it feels good, do it. That kind of thinking has brought us to this juncture in our history. St Theresa of Avila urges: “Be modest in all your words and works”.
Our forebears worked long and hard to build this country. They passed the baton to us so that we will continue the important work of nation-building. Our young people look to us for leadership. We adults must model modesty so that our youths will be inspired to follow our lead.
Love of God and love of neighbour require that we be true role-models and witnesses to the faith that we say we profess by leading each other in the right direction.
CCSJ challenges the media during this Carnival season to focus on those who are dressed decently/modestly and who behave in a manner that promotes their dignity.
Finally, let us remember St Paul’s words taken from the Second Reading today:
1 Corinthians 3: 16–23 — each of us is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God is living among us. “…the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.” Don’t destroy it!
CCSJ wishes you a happy and safe Carnival. Be sufficiently present to yourself.