A return to loving language, responses and gestures will engender a renewal of the family and nation. This is what Archbishop Jason Gordon is appealing for during the 40-day penitential period of Lent.
The Archbishop, in his Ash Wednesday homily at noon Mass, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando made an impassioned plea for this year’s Lenten observance to be a period where the faithful move away from violence in its different forms.
“This year for Lent, I want to highlight violence in our hearts, and I want us to make a commitment that in our families, we will repent of the violence, and the violent words and actions we have done in our families”, he said.
Highlighting the violence in the nation, Archbishop Gordon called for reflection on the violence in the hearts and homes. He said the family is supposed to be “the first school of Christianity, learning”, a school of love where children are taught to love.
It is the “sacred space” where children learn the daily practice of the faith. He opined that children seeing conflict between parents can be exposed to words of “harm”, “hate”, “violence” which may contribute to violence in the nation. The Archbishop added, “That breeds people whose hearts have turned outwards towards violence and against God.”
He said he cringed every time he heard a child tell a parent “I hate you” and after this off the cuff remark, they move on. “Words have consequences; words matter” he stressed. Archbishop Gordon pointed to disrespect displayed towards each other on television and radio. This can erode the fabric of the society.
He said this year’s Lenten observance was happening against a backdrop of murder. During the 40 days he asked Catholics to give up the violent speech and negativity. “Let us put in its place, loving language, loving actions, loving responses so we start speaking to each other out of love one more time.”
Archbishop Gordon prescribed a few actions for the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He called for prayers to be recited for the family to be a school of love with loving words, actions, and gestures. Fasting should not just be giving up certain food and drink but also hurtful words. He mentioned avoiding this on social media.
“All we put out in this 40 days are things that are affirming, things that are positive and things that will upbuild people and we promise to do that.”
Almsgiving covered many things. He advised activities by individuals, offices, and families to help the poor such as sponsoring something in one of the church ministries or a charity.
At the family or individual level, the Archbishop said, “a gesture of love” towards a poor individual or family can be giving away something useful for the sake of another person “having what they absolutely need.” He recommended children be part of almsgiving and taught to give “from whatever little they have, that they too see they can be part of the solution and they can be a sign of love.”
Archbishop Gordon said the country and families have moved “far off the mark” God has set. God was no longer centre or first.
“If we would live this day where we are fasting…this period of Lent in preparation of the great celebration of Easter, by doing these actions, these disciplines, there would be a renewal in our family…our Church…our nation.”
He said this year’s Ash Wednesday was happening like most places without Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Ash Wednesday is a day of public repentance.
“It is asking forgiveness for the ways that we have not done what God has called us to do. It is asking forgiveness for the ways in which we as Church have not been the witness and light that this nation ought to have had.”
The Archbishop pointed to mothers and fathers who have not been shining examples to their children and spouses not living as they should. If people were living as they should, the nation would not be as it is today.
“Ash Wednesday is a day where we are invited to put on ashes as a public sign of repentance” the Archbishop said. “Remember you are dust and onto dust you shall return” Archbishop Gordon proclaimed at the altar.
The congregation was then invited to receive ashes applied to their foreheads with a Q-tip that was discarded in a small bucket. Faithful moved forward steadily with social distancing being observed. Parish priest Fr David Khan concelebrated while Deacon Harold Woodruffe assisted.