For two years Malta has waited to show her “unusual kindness” to Pope Francis, while as a Church we have waited to celebrate the mysteries of Easter. The wait was long due to the darkness of the pandemic. But bad health is not only of the body, and “benevolence” is not only a help to migrants or to the exploited. Darkness and light mark the soul and are evoked in our presence and in works that reflect the state of our minds.
Poor spiritual health – pride, envy, anger, lust for power and pleasure, greed, indifference and fear – breed hatred and destruction, cruelty and despair. We live under the shadow of a “sacrilegious war” as the contagion tears apart brothers and sisters, causing untold misery and death.
But in these dark times, Peter, keeper of the memory of the light of Christ’s resurrection, chose to visit the “bright land” where Paul first proclaimed the gospel to the outskirts. During the Wednesday audience after his apostolic journey to “confirm this people in faith and in communion”, he observed that evangelization remains “in the DNA of the Maltese”. What does this mean for the Church of Malta?
Pope Francis clarified this light of the Gospel in his homily in Floriana on the pericope of the woman caught in adultery: “Forgiveness changed the life of this woman. Mercy (of God) and misery (human) embraced. Mercy and misery met there and the woman’s life changed. … The Lord also wants us, his disciples, his Church, also forgiven by him, to become tireless witnesses of reconciliation.
A few days later, as churches were filled with Easter light, baptismal fonts were blessed to echo baptismal vows, and newly baptized people were anointed with fragrant chrism, Bishop Scicluna explained how to witness to the reconciliation. The challenge of Easter is to let go of the corpse – of all that is corrupt and corruptible – so that the fragrance of the risen Christ can mark our relationships.
The challenge of Easter is to let go of the corpse – of all that is corrupt and corruptible – so that the fragrance of the risen Christ can mark our relationships
As the Church of Malta, our “unusual kindness” must extend beyond so that we are like the one who is truly alive, even while still bearing the wounds of the cross. As the “body of Christ”, we must receive and give the mercy of the Father, who always seeks and welcomes human misery, transforming it into joy. Through presence, compassion and forgiveness, mercy heals body and soul, reconciling in friendship that gives life in abundance.
If our Easter light is not to be hidden under bushel baskets, Pope Francis’ speech at the Grand Master’s Palace offers a daunting challenge for creative reconciliation. By appropriating our long tradition as the people of God and Malta’s history of meeting cultures, we are challenged to become the beating heart of the Mediterranean.
As fear and indifference blow from the north, despair from the south, consumerism from the west and war from the east, darkness can be infused with light. In the words of Pope Francis: “Malta as a whole is a laboratory of peace”: can our “luminous land” open up spaces for dialogue between peoples, encourage solidarity and the resolution of conflicts that build fraternity, and above all, be a sign of forgiveness that heals people’s hearts?
As Paul brought the healing of Christ to our shores and Peter confirmed the luminous light of the gospel within us, may we fulfill our responsibility to be a sweet fragrance and a safe refuge that promotes peace and reconciliation .
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