By Raymond Syms
The Church is swimming against a “tidal wave of culture”, says Archbishop Jason Gordon, but as believers it is called upon to rebuild God’s house and His people.
“We’re like salmon swimming upstream. The force of the tidal wave of culture is moving against us and we’re too small or too impotent to do anything against the wave,” but he added, “where sin abounds grace abounds even more,” Archbishop Gordon said Friday to open the 22nd Caribbean Conference of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR).
Explaining the context of the conference theme Let us start! Let us rebuild (Neh 2:18), the Archbishop told those gathered at the at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya, Tunapuna that to rebuild is verb, a doing or action word, “not something you sit down and contemplate”.
He said the book of Nehemiah was the last book of the Old Testament, and after Nehemiah “God gave Israel the silent treatment for 400 years”.
He said Nehemiah told the people of Israel about the problems that needed to be solved and the reason why action was required to avoid the “same ole, same ole”.
“We are in a wonderful time—a time like Nehemiah. Nehemiah challenged the people why their living was not right. They had diluted their faith by putting other gods before Him.”
He continued, saying they had become estranged from the promise of God, because they refused to follow God or to repent. Because of this, they were exiled in Babylon, and he invited all to sing the popular 70s reggae song ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’.
“I think the time we’re living in now is Babylonian captivity,” said the Archbishop. “We’re not carted out of where we’re living but where we’re living is no longer Christian land, the values are no longer Christian values. We’re living like foreigners with a value system that doesn’t make sense.” He said many had seen their children and grandchildren move away from the Catholic faith, and many were no longer coming to church.
“Let us be real. We’re living in a difficult and different time. The good news is this: that the pressure of the civilisation is only now starting to mount. We’re going to see an escalation of new technologies that you can’t even imagine, and a dwarfing of spirit of humanity and human values like we’ve not ever seen before.
“As one goes up the other one is going to come down. It will be left to a people to convince another (group of) people to rebuild this ruined house and to rebuild this shattered wall. You and I are that people. You and I have been called for this time.”
Archbishop Gordon said the work of the conference was to discern the will of God, listen deeply to God, and be convicted by what God is saying to us. “The challenge that is ahead is unlike any other challenge faced by any other generation of Catholics before us. There is a hostility to the faith around the world—in India, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. Catholics are losing their lives.
“Here in Caribbean we are not faced with loss of life and yet we shrink away from the challenge of living the gospel that Jesus has handed to us. Because we shrink away, we do not allow God’s word and God’s witness to demonstrate to this generation what is required for us to rebuild the ruined house of God and to rebuild the ruined souls of so many of our brothers and sisters.”
He challenged participants to not shrink away but experience the grace and mercy of God “and be convicted to move from where we are today to action required for the Church in the Caribbean.” He said to rebuild requires courage and effort. “Listen to His voice and do what He tells us. Not listen, scratch our head and drink milo, or tea, or cocoa tea,” he joked.
Archbishop Gordon said everyone needed to be intentional in listening, in praying and opening their hearts to God. “If you are intentional with your desire of God, God will be intentional with you in giving you what you need and moving you where you need to be.”
Conference attendees came from Belize, Bonaire, Canada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, United States, Jamaica and the US Virgin Islands. The largest contingents came from Guyana, followed by Suriname.
Other speakers on the weekend were Frs Trevor Nathasingh, Raymond Francis, Deborah de Rosia, chair of the CCR Caribbean Service Team, and Fr Anthony Abraham, a Trinidad-born priest serving in the Diocese of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.