by Vernon Khelawan
In just a few hours many Trinidadians and Tobagonians will succumb to the gay abandon that is our Carnival—a time of the year when people take the opportunity to “free up”. But this freeing up gives rise to all sorts of near nakedness, lascivious behaviour and vulgarity.
Having said that, we must look forward to the usually self-imposed austerity of the Lenten Season, when people are supposed to quietly pay greater attention to God’s word—a time of true repentance and prayer. So let’s talk prayer and forgiveness.
There is no question that our society needs prayer, plenty of it. What with murders reaching an all-time high; home invasions rampant and on the increase; the many and creative ideas for all sorts of corrupt practices in all sectors including fraud abounding; wounding and other criminal activity, there is need for many more of us to turn to God and live good lives in this holy season of Lent.
In the words of Sr Melanie Svoboda writing in Living Faith years ago “Lent reminds us we must not let the fear of hypocrisy get in the way of doing what good we can do. This means I perform good deeds not to show that I am already a holy person, but because I am striving to become one.”
“If as some psychologists say,” she continued, “‘we can act ourselves into a new way of thinking’, then surely, we can act ourselves into a new way of being. By acting as if we were already men and women of prayer, generosity, compassion, gentle humour and deep faith, we will eventually become the men and women we wish we were.”
Reflecting on Trinidad and Tobago’s society today we realise that forgiveness is the one element of our lives that is missing. And in many instances, this is what gives rise to most of the criminal behaviour we are experiencing. But if we look closely, we will see that God never stops forgiving us.
Psalm 51, verses 3–4, puts it this way: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offence. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.”
Writing in another edition of the same booklet Living Faith, Madeleine L’Engle said “Forgiveness requires healing grief. Forgiveness hurts as grief must and if it hurts to forgive, it hurts equally to be forgiven.
“We can feel magnanimous when we forgive—in which case it isn’t real forgiveness because it does not involve grief. True forgiveness involves fellow feeling, genuine sympathy with the one forgiven. When we accept forgiveness, we accept ourselves as sinners, which is not popular today, even in the Church.”
So as people involved in Carnival celebrations, we tend to become almost completely oblivious of the obligations to God’s will…when sanity goes missing…when morals take a back seat.
But in spite of the many homilies which will be preached at Masses all over the country this weekend unfortunately many Catholics will prefer to ignore the various messages and get involved in the carnal.
God wants us to enjoy Carnival. It is our festival; it is our culture; it is ours to revel in a holistic manner. So that Carnival devoid of the vagaries of immoral behaviour is a beautiful experience which God wants us all to enjoy.
But then comes Ash Wednesday. What does that mean? The hypocrites come out to play. After all the irresponsible behaviour of the past two days, they line up for ashes, many, on the false belief that somehow the ‘ashes’ will cleanse them of all their recent indiscretions.
Let us pledge to make this Lenten season one of true repentance, prayer and forgiveness.