Anytime the good Lord gives me the grace of attending a fruitful course, organized by the Institute of Pastoral Formation, at the Floriana Catholic Institute, I feel a deep inkling of getting out of the bus exactly at the place facing the monument of Christ the King.
In my heart of hearts I feel I have to stop there. And, in all honesty, how can I miss this monument which, according to some, overtly shows the apogee of Antonio Sciortino’s sterling artistic career? With what skill did he manage to clothe Christ with that might, power and sovereignty which are only his? And with what humble, devout and committed submission did this great sculptor manage to represent the female figure portraying our beloved Malta?
On Sunday, 10 February, Malta was celebrating the anniversary of its spiritual regeneration in Christ. Two thousand years ago, in that famous stormy voyage, Malta has seen the light of faith through the ministry of St. Paul. He came to our Island, with the ship’s crew, after practically being delivered from a sure death at sea. The book of the Acts of the Apostles says it so succinctly and clearly: After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta (Acts 28:1).
With what enthusiasm did this verse ring in the heart of a great saint who loved from the depths of his heart our country, St. John Paul II! In his homily at the Mass with beatifications, celebrated at the Floriana Granaries, on 9 May 2001, the Polish Pope commented on this great event in our history with strong and emotional voice:
“The Apostle’s arrival on your shores was dramatic. Saint Luke has told us of the stormy voyage and the helplessness of the crew and passengers as the ship went aground and began to break up (cf. Acts 27:39-44). And we have heard of their deliverance: ‘Once we had come safely through, we discovered that the island was called Malta’ (Acts 28:1). In God’s providence, Malta was to receive the Gospel in the earliest days of Christianity. ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds’ (Ps 107: 15).”
Yes! Indeed! Let us give thanks that from the earliest days of Christianity we Maltese were graced to receive the saving news of salvation. However, the reception of such a great gift also implies, from all of us, the huge responsibility to pass it on to our future generations. Irrespective of what some may think Malta’s social, cultural and spiritual fabric is intimately knit and embedded within Christianity.
That is why we, as Maltese, are called to safeguard our Christian values that clarify, solidify and lead forward our families, communities and society at large. Accentuating our Christian heritage has been all the more important especially in a social milieu which is becoming, more and more, cosmopolitan in essence. In order to nurture our personal and social expression of our faith it is wise to heed once again to the wise words Pope Benedict XVI told us when he visited us on the occasion of the 1950th anniversary of St. Paul’s Shipwreck on our Island. In his homily during the Mass he celebrated at Floriana Granaries on 18 April 2010, the Third Sunday of Easter, Benedict told us: “Not everything that today’s world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church”.
In other words, these voices are telling us to put money before the Lord Jesus Christ, what we feel before what God wants from us, egoism before the common good which includes us and our brothers and sisters within our society. This situation can discourage us. But, St. Paul’s strong advice shows us the way ahead: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
As a baptized I am called to kneel profoundly before my Lord Jesus Christ by what I say, think and live. This is what St. Paul taught me. Do my choices, behavior and mentality really show that I am kneeling to Him? If not before whom am I kneeling?