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Archbishop at Ash Wednesday Mass: Corrupt societies breed corrupt leaders
As he delivered his first Ash Wednesday homily in San Fernando yesterday, Archbishop Joseph Harris spoke of the scourge of corruption which has invaded the land. He called on Catholic parents to make their homes schools of authentic discipleship if they hoped to lessen this scourge.
Addressing a packed congregation at Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church during a midday Mass to mark the start of the 40-day Lenten season, Harris, assisted by Msgr Christian Pereira, said families are not doing the jobs they should be doing. He reminded parishioners, including primary and secondary school students who came to get their ashes, that if families, which were the bedrock of society, were not well, then the society could not be well.
“Corrupt leaders do not just drop from the sky...They normally come from corrupt societies,” he said. He urged Catholic and Christian leaders in business, labour and political spheres, to remember they were role models and everything they did and said came under careful scrutiny.
“If the Catholic role models are not giving a witness of authentic discipleship, then something is wrong,” he said. Spelling out that authentic discipleship involved three characteristics—interiority or deep prayer, concern for community and willingness to give up power for a simple life—Harris said in this regard Pope Benedict XVI must be seen as an example of a person striving to live authentic discipleship.
“In his simple statement of resignation, the Pope speaks of a decision made after long and continuous prayer to the Father (interiority), a decision entered into because he could no longer render adequate service to the Church (concern for the community), a willingness to give up the trappings of power (purity of intentions),” he said.
“That, my dear friends, is the stuff of which authentic discipleship is built,” he said, lamenting, “Unfortunately these characteristics tend to be so absent in our land, even at times among those who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ.” Harris said Lent was not simply about mortifying the flesh, or making resolutions, but about building or reinforcing the habits and practices which define authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.
He said that was a lifelong commitment which did not permit holidays or breaks in its fulfilment. Therefore, he said, “We cannot disrespect ourselves by lewd and disgusting dress and behaviour on Carnival days and then run to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday and believe that we can then pick up being authentic disciples again. “Authentic discipleship says to us that there are Christian ways of doing everything, even playing mas,” he said.
“Authentic discipleship means that we accept the responsibility of being ambassadors for Christ, carrying the message of Christ Jesus and representing the Kingdom of God, in every sphere of national life.”
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