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­­Fr Harris knocks revellers’ lascivious behaviour: That’s not our culture

Thursday, March 6, 2014
Fr Kenneth Assing, left, assists a member of the congregation in putting ashes on the forehead of another congregation member during the Ash Wednesday Mass at the Sacred Heart RC Church, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

In his Ash Wednesday homily to mark the start of Lent, Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris yesterday reflected on the two days of Carnival revelry in which many in the congregation would have been engaged. In his sermon, he said if culture was the excuse for the behaviour displayed by some revellers on the two days of Carnival, then culture has to be evangelised. “It would have been a miracle if the behaviour of some revellers had been different. Unfortunately, that miracle did not occur. 



“The lascivious behaviour being exhibited by some of our people, in my opinion, has nothing to do with culture and, if it has, then our culture certainly has to be evangelised.” He told a packed lunchtime congregation, however, that the evangelisation of culture is an obligation incumbent on the church and on every individual. 



“Culture is not evangelised by staying away from it, it is evangelised by entering into it and letting the graces won by Jesus Christ on the cross transform all in the culture, which is not in accord with the values espoused by Jesus Christ.” In his homily, delivered at the Pro-Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, San Fernando, the Archbishop noted that the behaviour of individuals was not the only aspect of national life which needed to be transformed.



“The pervasive attitude towards corruption, the disrespect for life, the lack of respect for the poor and indigent, and the attitude of mind which says that the colour of a person’s skin is more important than the content of their character are all aspects of national life which need transformation,” he said. “You and I, my dear friends, because of baptism and confirmation, are the agents of that transformation. We can be agents of that transformation, however, only in the measure that we ourselves are being transformed.”



He said the transformation must also be from the heart. Using the words of the Gospel: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your Heavenly Father,” the Archbishop also issued a warning to politicians not to do good deeds just for show.


“These words of the Gospel are particularly striking because we are accustomed to seeing politicians doing good deeds, but always with a camera person recording what has been done for posterity, or perhaps for the next election campaign. “We are accustomed to seeing the ostentatiousness in housing and transport, and over the last two days we were bombarded with images of persons doing all sorts of things purposely in front of the cameras, for the world to see. 


“My dear friends, focusing on the externals does not allow us to build the internal, and since any worthwhile transformation of our nation will only be built on the transformation of hearts, it is our responsibility to ensure that our own hearts are transformed.” The Archbishop noted that because of the situation in the country, many people were losing hope and leaving because they had no hope in our future.


“Many parents are encouraging their children to study overseas and not come back,” he said, pointing out that there might be such people among the congregation. “In the face of all that is going on, we are called to be persons of hope and to encourage hope in others.” He reminded the congregation, which included primary and secondary school students, of the teachings of St Paul, and asked, “How then are we to spend this season of Lent, this favourable time?  


“Each one of us must seek to be reconciled to God, to remove from our hearts the habits of sin, which are an obstacle to God’s grace in our lives. Let us all implore the Lord our God for this land of ours, that he may have pity on us and bring our land to be what the name that it bears signifies; Trinity—in diversity, a loving communion. “This is our hope. It is for this that we work. It is for this that we must pray.”


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