Donald J. Reece | Emancipendence Sunday …Thankfulness and introspection
This Fifty-Eighth Anniversary of Independence celebration might be the most memorable one so far. We cannot celebrate with the customary total abandon marked by merrymaking with hugs, kisses, and parties galore.
The COVID-19 pandemic is like cold water dashed 'inna wi face' to wake us up to the real purpose of our Emancipation and Independence observance. St. Paul’s injunction holds sway here: “For those who love God, all things work together unto good” [Romans 8:28]. And so, we look for the good that is so painfully enveloped in this COVID-19 'lockdown'.
The Evangelist Luke records Jesus’ advice to us: “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” [Luke 12:22-23]. Not a few of us are forever anxious. We are anxious about the restrictions posed by COVID-19; we are anxious about the crime situation and a security force that is under-equipped to contain criminal elements and secure peace; we are anxious about the fragile economy; and we are anxious about the future of our lives impacted by so many uncertainties.
Yes, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are in real crisis as a nation, and yet we must sing lustily more than ever: “Eternal Father, bless our land; guide us with Thy mighty hand; keep us free from evil powers; be our light through countless hours” (excerpt from our National Anthem). Given our present socio-economic situation spanning these 58 years, it appears as if our Father God is not listening to us!
NOT LISTENING TO GOD
But is it that our God is not listening to us, or could it be the other way around – that we are not listening to our God? Jesus continues His advice in the Gospel: “But if God so clothes the grass which is alive ... how much more will He clothe you, O men of little faith ... Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things shall be yours as well” [Luke 12: 28, 31].
Without a doubt, we have been anxious all these 58 years about many things: real emancipation, especially of our minds, for we are still ‘Mimic Men’ of things foreign; political and economic independence (still in the making); the actual realisation of our beautiful motto, 'Out of Many, One People' (for some are not equal before the law). Had we been seeking the Father’s kingdom of “justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” [Romans 14:17], maybe all those things about which we have been anxious might have already been remedied.
We are indeed a blessed nation: multi-ethnic composition of peoples; freedom of religion and freedom of speech; fertile land; fruits and vegetables galore; good potable water; salubrious climate; relaxing beaches; frolicking waterfalls; and fauna and flora to bring joy to our hearts. Notwithstanding all those blessings, we grapple with crippling poverty and landlessness for many. This is not in keeping with God’s kingdom characterised by justice and peace.
When we reflect upon the inspired words of our National Anthem, we see certain things which, if pursued, are incorporated in God’s kingdom of justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, all of which could make us a more blessed nation.
NATIONAL ANTHEM ILLUSTRATIONS
The following excerpts from the anthem serve to illustrate the possibility of pursuing kingdom values as we climb to greater heights and enjoy copious blessings:
* “Teach us true respect for all” is the practical application of the belief that all of us – no matter the creed, colour, complexion – are made in the image of God, and, as a consequence, must be respected. It matters not the station of a person, or his address; there is that innate value of the human person that must be respected, be he/she clerk, convict or clergyman. “Much respect is due!”
Sad to say, the reality is far from the ideal when we see how we address and treat one another, especially those of a lower economic status. Much work needs to be done to show “Much more respect!”
In other words, we must heed the injunction given by the Apostle Paul:
“Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing ... and forgiving one another” [Colossians 3:12-13]. That’s how we give “Much respect” to one another!
* “Stir response to duty’s call” is another way of God’s challenge to each of us to become our nation’s builders, each in his/her own way, according to one’s ability and talents.
To keep on thinking that parliamentarians and political councillors are the sole “responders to duty’s call” only leads to the perpetuation of unhealthy dependency and crippling poverty of the masses, as well as the entrenchment of a garrison mentality among our people. Radical change is needed if we are to attain real independence that is everybody’s business.
* “Strengthen us the weak to cherish” reminds us that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. Our faith tells us that we are creatures of connectivity; we are very much interdependent, for no one person is an island by himself/herself going it all alone. This is especially so for those who are dirt poor, vulnerable, and marginalised.
It is for that reason why Food For The Poor came out of the bowels of the church through Ferdie Mahfood’s generous response to God’s call. Now, it has become an international organisation bringing relief to many poor people throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere.
In a more moderate way, our beloved St Vincent de Paul Society in each parish community helps to strengthen those who are weak and struggling to make ends meet.
* “Give us vision lest we perish” is a call for openness to real systemic changes in all areas: reform of the judicial system which presently allows for loopholes whereby many languish in prison unjustly; less government bureaucracy that frustrates citizens in ordinary transaction of business, which only cultivates the ‘bly’ culture and corruption; needed is the birth of a more effective and smarter legislature to effect laws with teeth and strict enforcement for one and all equally, lest we deteriorate into an anarchic society where anything goes.
Most of all, we desperately need vision in respect to the integral development of all our people, especially the formation of our youth from early childhood through to tertiary-level education (including skills), with the end result being the solid formation of citizens with good character and life-sustaining capabilities.
Intricately coupled with that vision is good family life where love and a sense of real belonging would help reduce the attraction of our ‘yutes’ to gangs and to a life of crime that ultimately ends in early violent deaths.
Indeed, my fellow Jamaicans, thanksgiving must be voiced on this our 58th Anniversary of Independence, but like nature, we cannot stand still, but must be on the move, spurred on by a healthy dissatisfaction until the dream of our motto is realised through justice, peace and the integrity of all of creation.
We need to realise the fantastic potentials that this 'likkle but tallawah' nation has been given by the Almighty for better and more effective stewardship.
Let us, dear friends, remain forever hopeful, for as Christians who believe in the Resurrection of Christ, we must also believe that with the hand of the Almighty we can, and must, do far better. Yes, as a nation, we are indeed blessed, but we must forever have etched into our minds that “To whom much is given, much is expected” [Luke 12:48].
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God” [Colossians 3:16].
A Blessed Emancipendence Anniversary to one and all!
Donald J. Reece is an Emeritus Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kingston. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org