Westminster Cathedral, London
Saturday, 3rd September 2016
Every year we celebrate the victory of 1565. Also remember World War II and the fact that for Malta, World War II was practically over on the 7th September 1943, with the surrender of the Italian navy. And they were years, at least our grandparents, our parents, remember of great suffering. These two dates are always linked with the Solemnity of the Birth of Our Lady, and in Malta it is celebrated as Our Lady of Victories.
Today I would like to offer a short reflection on the number of verbs that we have at the Second Reading (Rom 8, 28-30), when Paul tries to explain to us what the love of God is for each and every one of us. He speaks about foreknowledge, being known beforehand, being predestined, being called, being justified, being glorifed. Five verbs which seem to be a bit, theoretical, but I would say that all these five verbs which Paul uses to explain how God loves us and how much he loves us, have one name and it is mercy. The Lord knows us beforehand, before we are born, and knowledge, as we know, in the Bible means love. The Lord knows me, knows each and everyone of you: I love you. We are called to existence through our parents but we are sent on a mission to become an expression of God’s love, to ourselves, to our brethren, to the world. That the Lord knows us before we start to exist and he continues to love us as we grow, and mature. We are also predestined, he has a special desires and Paul explains this: his desire for us is that we become a beautiful image of Jesus Christ, of his Son.
As we heard in the Gospel (Mt 1, 18-22), the two names of the Son of God made man are ‘Jesus’ and ‘Emmanuel’ and that is how we need to understand the mission of Jesus which continues in his Church. Yeshua, Emanuel, Ġesù, Għimmanu-El, Jesus, Emmanuel. Jesus means: ‘the Lord saves’ He is our saviour, our redeemer. He uplifts us, he does not despise us, he does not trample us, he is our Redeemer, a Saviour. He has come to uplift us from all our miseries, from our tendency to be selfish, self-centred. He is also with us Emmanuel, he is God with us and we can say that he saves, by being with us, one of us. That is an extraordinary paridigm for human existence. It is being with a person being of service to man. So we become a beautiful image of Jesus by being compassionate, present, loving, unselfish, and generous.
He does not only predestine every one of us, he has a special design that we become a special image of Jesus, but he also calls us. Every one of us has a special calling, so much different, as everybody has his own special call. It is always radically a call to love, a call to service and at the same time as he calls us, he justifies us. It is we who are weak, we are sinners, we need somebody who makes us just, iustum fac et, to justify. It is an extraordnary thing to realise that we do not become just out of our own merits or our own esteem, but because he in his mercy is ready to make us just. To forgive our sins, to help us in our weakness and at the end of the day, he is also willing to glorify us. That is a reward which we will have to wait more; it is the word ‘glory’ is a bit ephemeral, a bit vain. The Lord does not glorify people on earth, not necessarily, not usual, but that is an extraordinary call, an extraordinary mercy that, we who are weak and sinners who owe God, but he is ready to glorify us, to allow us to be in his own home which we calls Paradise, heaven, a sharing and a glory of his Son.
I was praying at St Paul’s chapel, whenever I come to Westminster Cathedral I like to stop to pray at the tomb of Cardinal Newman in St Paul’s chapel. I am very happy to notice that there are primus artifacts in the chapel the conversion of St Paul but there is also the shipwreck of St Paul on a small island called Melita, Malta. We Maltese, as the High Commissioner said, are very proud of our heritage. We are also proud of the fact that we, though tiny – that is why I am a very good representative of this – have a long history and we are also a holy land because of the presence of the Apostle. In fact the Knights of Malta, after losing Jerusalem and Rhodes, were very keen to emphasise the fact that Malta was also a holy land because it was also the land that welcomed St Paul – we did not throw him away – but we welcomed him and he stayed for three months. When he went away to Sicily and then to Rome, we gave the ship whatever it needed as St Luke states in the Acts of the Apostles in Chapter 28.
Thus, being proud of our heritage leads us, we need to preserve it for our future generations, but also means that we need to witness to it wherever we are. I would like to thank each and every one of you especially those who live here, who have settled here, have family here, those who are descended from Maltese parents, and you probably miss then, we will pray today for all your beloved departed and especially those who have gone to heaven recently. But I would like to suggest only one thing: being proud is not enough, we need to witness to our heritage and we need to bring the good name of Malta wherever we are. And we also want to thank the Lord for our special relationship between our Islands and the United Kingdom. It started in 1800 and it still goes on and if we celebrate Independence we do celebrate a special relationship with Great Britain, with Her Majesty, as Head of the Commonwealth and we are also proud to be part of this great family of nations. Thank the Lord also for the English language, because Maltese is a very precious language, but it doesn’t really take us very far. We are, I think, fortunate to have this special relationship with England that gave us this extraordinary means of communication.
I am here also to visit our sick, who find great support, treatment and welfare in the hospitals and in the NHS services of this country. I would like to say thank you to the United Kingdom, thank you to the Maltese Government because it takes a political world to continue this important relationship which is so beneficial to our people. Today we pray for our sick that the suffering of our people who come here for treatment, first spiritual but also to gives a witness of perseverance, of courage and determination. I would also like to thank so many of you who have benefitted this country through your hard work and I think that that is something that we bring, we bring good work and we are proud of this. As we say thank you, we also join in this extraordinary experience of sharing also with the blessing of the Eucharist.
I thank His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols for having us in his Cathedral today. I will have the pleasure of welcoming him in my Cathedral, next week for the Episcopal Ordination of the new Bishop of Gibraltar, Mgr Carmelo Zammit, happens to be another Maltese who will be going somewhere else in order to be of service. This sharing of gifts between two countries continues and I hope it will continue to bring blessings as indeed in the two great Sieges. Because in the two victories that we celebrate on the 8th September each year, we Maltese were not alone. In 1565, we had the Order of Malta defending our Islands. Gozo was not so lucky in 1551 as they were all taken slaves. In the Second World War we were not alone, we were not abandoned to our destiny with the Operation Pedestal on the 15th August and the Convoy of Santa Maria and the victory through the great support of the United Kingdom, of the Empire. Thus, when we celebrate victories, we Maltese realise that we did not win them alone, with this gift our contribution, and that is our destiny: we are dependent from the resources of others and we are very proud to be able to share our own heritage and our own witness.