It is interesting that the public holidays celebrating the First Peoples of Trinidad and the Hindu festival of Divali should be observed within a few days of each other. They both speak of inheritance and legacy, passed down through generations to enlighten a people and to enrich a land which belongs exclusively to neither group yet which embraces all, including those who may not be able to legitimately claim to have First Peoples’ blood in their veins or who may never have followed the Hindu tradition.
Equally fascinating is the relevance of both last week’s Gospel reading (Mt 21:33–43) and of this week’s (Mt 22:1–14) to the lessons which we can learn from even a brief analysis of the reasons for the celebrations which are national in scope and universal in implication.
Our First Peoples’ love and care for the environment upon which they depended for their existence has allowed us, centuries after they were first made known to the outer ‘First’ world, to inherit a land rich in natural resources.
They understood and respected the wealth that they found in the forests, the soil, the rivers, the seas, the abundance of fauna and flora which they used as food and as medicine. They appreciated that these were gifts that the ‘gods’ had bequeathed to them and with which they were entrusted for the well being of their descendants. Their practices were in harmony with their environment and not in opposition to it.
We, who have inherited these very lands and waters have transformed – and in many cases, sullied, in the name of development and progress – the land which has nourished and supported those who have walked this land before us. Like the wretches of last week’s Gospel, we have sometimes ignored the loving abundance of the landowner and brought our own forms of destruction to the vineyard provided for our benefit. We would do well to learn from the ‘uncivilised’ peoples whose wisdom we should recognise and acclaim today.
In our national celebration of Divali, we as a nation enjoy the religious and cultural legacy of a people brought from a far-off land, who share with us that urgent need to banish the darkness of ignorance and sin and to replace it with the light and life of grace. Today’s Gospel reading illustrates the all-encompassing love of the Father who desires that all be saved from the “weeping and grinding of teeth” that follows our deliberate disobedience and defiance of God’s laws.
The Gospel serves to remind us that we Catholics should not take for granted the status we perceive ourselves as enjoying as Christians or followers of Christ. The wedding banquet was denied to those invitees who chose to ignore the summons of the king. The invitation was then sent out to those “in the crossroads in the town” who filled the banqueting hall, “bad and good alike”. Our Hindu brethren do not take lightly the spiritual invitation to celebrate the light of God in their lives. They practise fast and abstinence and seek to cleanse and purify their souls even as they clean their homes and physical surroundings.
The people of this nation are heirs to great material and spiritual abundance. May we always remember our obligations to our God who is Father of all.