There are not two categories of people. There are not some who were born to have everything and leave others with nothing and a majority that has nothing and can’t enjoy the happiness that God has created for all. God wants a Christian society, one in which we share the good things that God has given for all of us.
—St Óscar Romero
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Our life spreads light when it is given in service. The secret of joy is living to serve” —Pope Francis.
Much has been written about today’s gospel—Matthew 5:13–16. We are called to be salt of the earth and light of the world.
Pope Francis reminded youths at World Youth Day in 2013: “You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of his love; courageous witnesses of his gospel, carrying to this world a ray of his light.”
In today’s world, selfish individualism stands as an obstacle in our efforts to build cohesive, caring communities.
Read today’s gospel in the context of Matthew 5,6, and 7. Jesus had just outlined the Beatitudes, a moral framework, in His Sermon on the Mount. Now He tells His followers, and indeed, those who were just part of the crowd: “You are the light of the world.”
If we are to hunger and thirst for what is right; if we are to be peacemakers etc, and live the Beatitudes, we cannot hide our light, or our gifts. We are called to shine our light “in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.”
In one of his homilies during Mass in 2016, Pope Francis reminded us that Christians must be salt and light, but never self-serving: salt must add flavour and light must illuminate the other: “…both salt and light are for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavour to itself; light does not illuminate itself…the Christian is salt given to us by God during Baptism, it’s a gift that never ends.”
He asked the question: “What must a Christian do in order for the salt not to run out, so that the oil to light the lamp does not come to an end?” Prayer is the answer.
He says that no matter how many works of charity we engage in or how many great works we do for the Church, if we do not pray “it will be dark and dimly lit”. Prayer, he says, is a “serious matter”, but “prayer must come from the heart”.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had told us also that: “All pastoral work, including promoting social justice and providing for the poor, must be nourished by prayer. Without contemplating and internalising God’s word daily, one risks being suffocated by too heavy a workload and one’s heart risks hardening to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.”
Last week as I drove away from the Offices of the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) in Chaguanas, I reflected on how easy it would have been to have been overwhelmed by my workload on CCSJ and on certain Boards on which I serve, and not listen to where the Holy Spirit was leading me.
In 2015, I had been appointed by the then President Anthony Carmona, as one of two Lay Assessors to assist the then Chairman/Judge of the EOT “in arriving at a decision in proceedings before the Tribunal” (s.42 (4) of the Equal Opportunity Act, Ch 22:03). The Tribunal is a Superior Court of Record and has the status of a High Court.
At the end of my three-year term in May 2018, I bade farewell to the EOT Team, and was on vacation in London when I was asked to resume my duties at the EOT.
I prayed about it. I spoke to His Grace, who reminded me that the work there was about justice. I resumed duties at the EOT under the excellent leadership of Madam Justice Donna Prowell-Raphael.
In my farewell speech last week, I quoted Gandhi who said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
T&T would not be where it is today if it were not for the countless individuals who serve our country with dedication. Let us all strive to shine our light in the sight of men and women.