Thursday, 4th November 2021: Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna during a Mass in which Fra Francis Vassallo makes his solemn vows as Knight of the Order of St John. St John’s Co-Cathedral, Valletta.
Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
Fra John, Honourable delegate, dear Francis, distinguished and most honorable guests, members of the Order of Malta,
The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus. I hope and pray, that we are amongst them. That we realise our indebtedness to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and his glorious passion and resurrection. That we realise we are sinners, not necessarily tax collectors; we may be on the receiving end of the tax collectors. But we are sinners, that is what we have admitted at the beginning of this mass, as we always do – confiteor – I confess. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
In your new vocation, confirmed by the authorities of the Order and the Church, you are a servant of the poor, a defender of the faith
But at the same time we rely on the intercession of the saints: the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist, all the Saints of the Order; the image of whom makes this lended tempum (time) gracious and more holy; and all the saints, including today St Charles Borromeo; who is the fruit of a system where nepotism was the order of the day. Little has changed in the world. His uncle was pope, and he become a cardinal at a very young age. He died at age 46, very young by our standards. But at the death of his brother, he realised there was more to life than power, nobility, dignity, titles and prestige. What was more to life than all these things, that people strive for with passion and with greed? There was the true life – the true life of service.
And that is why it is so moving in this extraordinary liturgy and prayer by which you, Francis, become a Knight of Justice, that the Order asks you to promise to have particular care and concern for those who are poor, dispossessed, orphaned, sick and suffering. The obsequium pauperum (assistance to the poor), which is such an extraordinary important pilar of the ethos, the heritage, and the history of the Order, is an expression of the Tuitio Fidei (protection of the faith). You cannot be a true Christian, brandishing the sword of your hearts against the enemies of the Lord, when we are being a friend of the poor, the dispossessed, the orphan, the sick and the suffering.
On your shoulders, the Lord, is very eager to see the lost sheep; because his shoulders are now your shoulders, dear Francis. In your new vocation, confirmed by the authorities of the Order and the Church, you are a servant of the poor, a defender of the faith, and you represent Jesus to so many sick people, people who are in need all over the world.
We are very proud that one of us, Maltese, will be a fully fledged member of the Order, and a Knight of Justice, after Fra John, we have Fra Francis; and it is a great privilige for us to see this happen here, in the conventional church of the Knights that graced so many liturgy, when the Knights were here as our sovereigns and lords.
We commit ourselves, to taking care of this heritage, but it is not a heritage in stone, gold leaf and arts, but above all it is a heritage of defense of the faith and service to the poor; that is the heritage we need to be proud of. This is the heritage that we ask you, dear Francis, to preserve in your new ministry, we, who sinners are seeking everyday to be in the company of Jesus, like you.
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
Reading I: Romans 14:7-12
Psalm: 26 (27):1.4.13-14
Gospel: Lk 15:1-10