Two years after the announcement on the feast of the Shipwreck of Saint Paul, Pope Francis reaffirmed his desire to visit the people who welcomed the Apostle, with “unusual benevolence” (Acts 28, 2). In his apostolic visits, Francis reached out to persecuted ecclesial communities; met with religious and political leaders in gestures for world peace; accompanied the wounded from the Church itself; more evocatively, it touched the wounds of those on the peripheries, in particular the millions of displaced people, victims of a “globalization of indifference”. From Lampedusa in July 2013 to his return to Lesvos last December, the fate of all those desperately fleeing their homes and seeking refuge has remained a major concern of the pope.
As islands in the Mediterranean ‘graveyard’, the plight of migrants will be at the forefront of Pope Francis’ mind when he visits us. Moreover, as Bishop Charles Scicluna recalled in his 2021 Christmas message, the same name “malatis synonymous with the security of our ports and the sweetness of our honey, which for millennia has evoked an oasis of warm hospitality. In a world of displaced people, rescue from the terror of the abyss and pampered life is not only a quintessential Maltese virtue, but a model of true humanism.
Yet February 10 is a reminder of how the apostle Paul was saved not just by our acts of kindness. By healing our sick, he proclaimed Christ, through whom all suffering finds meaning and redemption. The irony – and beauty – of Maltese history is that we are truly saved as we seek to save: our small acts of kindness bless us with the infinite gift of being among the first to be evangelized: truly chosen as belonging to Christ because of our exemplary kindness and hospitality.
The irony – and beauty – of Maltese history is that we are truly saved as we seek to save
The uniqueness of our land and the beating heart of its people – whatever their ethnic origin, but always charged with fulfilling the duty of being a gentle and safe refuge – becomes a symbol not only of virtuous hospitality, but of the gospel itself as it is proclaimed through “unusual kindness”. Christ, who was ultimately generous in giving his life for the salvation of the world, chose us as his special bride, adorned with the beauty of hospitality.
As a pilgrim among us, His Holiness will celebrate the liturgy with the People of God in Malta on the fifth Sunday of Lent, as the Church tells the story of the adulterous woman condemned to public stoning (Jn 8:1-11 ). As the bride of Christ, we also commit adultery whenever we break our promise to be “a welcoming church”. All trembling and repentant, may we also hope to find consolation: as Jesus our husband gently draws near to us, his adulterous bride, may we hear his voice not condemning our very public transgressions, but telling us to to sin no more and to start afresh, living with renewed zeal our charism of hospitality.
In the weeks to come, as we meditate in a spirit of repentance to live up to our name, malatmay we find the courage to renew our commitment to generous hospitality: not only to guests from wherever they visit us, but to ignite the hearts of the world, so that this “global indifference” can also be transformed into “kindness unusual”.
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