Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
On Independence Day 2022, allow me to share three thoughts inspired by the Word of God that we read today (Luke 14:1,7-14). In the Gospel of St Luke, Jesus recommends that people should not seek to be guests of honour at the table, but rather to occupy the more modest places; it should be left to the host to grant them social recognition and elevate their status.
Entering politics with humility
This calling is not merely an invitation to observe the formal and essential etiquette related to correctness and courtesy, but it is also a lesson, particularly with respect to public service, in avoiding the scourge of social climbing (arrivismo); that is, using politics to move ahead of others and achieve recognition and wealth.
I wish to honour the great generations of Maltese and Gozitans who, through politics, dedicated selfless service to the common good; that is, offering to serve without expecting anything in return. May we continue to have politicians like these because independence — which we acquired in 1964 — needs to be applied with a great sense of responsibility, good governance and rule of law, correctness, integrity, honesty and, above all, rectitude.
May we all recognise that when we criticise one another, we should neither make use of harsh words nor of methods that wound the dignity of our opponents.
Humility is a lesson quickly learnt in the political world because one is continuously held accountable for the way one exercises one’s responsibilities. One learns how to submit oneself to public scrutiny and also to be subjected to harsh criticism. This is invariably a humbling experience. Humility is the conduct of a person who is well-grounded in public service, a person who is also capable of genuine self-evaluation devoid of escapism and inferiority complex. May we all recognise that when we criticise one another, we should neither make use of harsh words nor of methods that wound the dignity of our opponents. We should all be aware that destructive criticism not only destroys the individual but can also poison the very fabric of society. How much better our democratic dialogue would be if it were infused not only with a spirit of true patriotism but also with a sense of decency, love, and charity: dialogue that is sincere, honest, and faithful.
Let us not harden our hearts
The second cue from the Word of Jesus we heard today is the need for our country — whose birth as a sovereign nation we are celebrating today — to always be founded on the principle of solidarity. In the Gospel, Jesus praises those who display love and hospitality without expecting anything in return. We thank God for our society that has the capacity, resources and political will to manage support structures for those most in need. What became known as the ‘welfare state’ after the Second World War ought to be valued and appreciated.
As Pope Francis says, we cannot allow the economy to take over politics. Politicians have a duty not only to manage the economy for the benefit of the common good, but also to correct the market rules that can often cause those who lack means — or who are at a material disadvantage personally, emotionally or socially — to be left behind or unable to participate in the market race. This solidarity should not only be practised among us — though that is important — but should also be extended to our brethren whose lives are in peril in the Mediterranean and are knocking at the door of our hearts. While we are right to insist that we should not and cannot carry a burden that far outweighs our resources, this cannot be justified to turn a deaf ear and harden our hearts when we hear a desperate cry for help.
I wish to salute the Armed Forces of Malta because I know that, in keeping with our international responsibilities within the search and rescue zone that embraces the central Mediterranean, they provide an effective, serene and powerful response in moments of crisis. May they be a symbol of humanity so that all of us as human beings and as an authentic members of civil society may be a means of help to all those who are most in need.
I also wish to praise and thank the State for all the support it provides to so many philanthropic and socially committed initiatives organised by non-governmental organisations. These initiatives embody the spirit of social commitment and selfless solidarity that the Lord praises in today’s Gospel.
Working for the benefit of our heritage
My last reflection today is an appeal to all of us, as members of Maltese society, to be constantly imbued with a sense of service and solidarity to the environment which, in no small way, is a silent protagonist in our life. The natural environment is the heritage we have received as a gift of creation, a gift which places upon our shoulders profound responsibility. This heritage takes various forms: it encompasses our architecture, our art, and of course nature all around us. We ought to have a common and shared commitment to safeguard the beauty that makes our islands an extraordinary and priceless environment. We must start by putting aside our personal interests in order to understand that these will only truly be protected when we look after one another.
L‑ambjent naturali huwa patrimonju li aħna rċivejna bħala don tal‑ħolqien u hu mogħti lilna b’responsabbiltà kbira
While initiatives to increase wealth within our country are important, it is vital that we continue to safeguard our cultural, architectural, and natural heritage. We have a duty to do this for future generations; but we would also be short-sighted not to realise that safeguarding our heritage is the biggest contribution we can make to safeguard our wealth.
On this year’s Independence Day, I cannot conclude my homily without paying tribute to the memory of Queen Elizabeth II, who in 1964 signed the Letters Patent that granted our islands the independence that our people deserved and had long been striving for. Let us pray that our world will be blessed and endowed with leaders who bear beautiful witness to service, faithfulness, good governance, and loyalty.
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta