Gilbert was the chief celebrant at the Jubilee Mass held yesterday at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the Roman Catholic Mission in San Fernando.
“God is compassionate and full of love for his people. The Jews lived it. The Jews were compassionate and caring to their own, they were compassionate and caring to the people of their nation, to the people of their race, to the people of their ethnic communities however that wasn’t enough for Jesus. Jesus took that teaching and universalised it,” Gilbert told the congregation assembled around the Marian Grotto in the churchyard.
Gilbert, an American who retires as head of the local Catholic Church in December, preached that many in this country, especially politicians were like the Jews.
“In many cases in this country, there are people who love one another, who are compassionate but they have the mind-set of the original Jewish people. They are good to their own, they are good their own nation, own people, own ethnic group, their own race, but they have not universalised the concept of love.”
Gilbert said the very first value to look at is the value of God as “compassionate love and of the universalisation of that for all people.”
He warned that there must be no exception in God’s love.
“There is no, ‘except for this.’ So I love you except for this group, I love you except for this group, I love you except for this group. That is precisely what happens in this nation, very selective loving and the universal message of God’s love is not yet generally accepted,” Gilbert declared.
Speaking after the mass, Gilbert said that “the tendencies of many people is still to take care of their own.”
He singled out the politicians.
Gilbert told reporters, “Politicians protect their own constituencies on the basis of race or ethnicity or politics. One of the things we need in the country, I believe, and the Prime Minister (Kamla Persad-Bissessar) said it, the President (George Maxwell Richards) said it, we have to return to values of a universal nature.”
Gilbert said the country should take note of what is happening in the Middle East.
“One of the things we have to watch, for example is the struggle with tribalism in the Middle East which is still going on. Libya for example, Afghanistan, Iraq, it’s a very, very serious challenge and if people decide just to take care of their own, that’s not good for the country and certainly not good for the theology of the church.”
He believes the lack of universal theological values in some has led to the state the nation has found itself in, referring to gang crimes that have led to the state of the emergency.
“It inevitably shows up in behaviour and when you have people no matter what their religious or non-religious tradition, and when they have nothing to fall back on in terms of what’s right and what’s wrong; Why should I respect you? Why should you respect me? This is a universal theological value, they don’t have it. That’s why they can cut each other down on the streets with drug wars and violence. It’s a sort of a shame, that while it is necessary to have a curfew, it is a shame that we need it.”
Gilbert believes the only “way back” is to have all the religious traditions through the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) talk to their respective congregations.
“Encourage them to do the right things,” Gilbert said, “and teach the young people values because some of the kids have absolutely nothing. They are given nothing from their families so when they are in a pickle they move with the crowds.”
Gilbert was assisted by parish priest Monsignor Christian Perreira, Fr Alan Hall, Fr Emmanuel Pierre, Fr Hugh Joyeau, Deacons Roy Raghunanan and Harold Woodroffe.
Minister of Arts and Multi-culturalism Winston “Gypsy” Peters, Opposition Senator Penelope Beckles-Robinson and ACP Fitzroy Frederick were among the specially invited guests.
Also in attendance were members of the hearing-impaired community and combined choirs from other communities led the liturgical singing.