Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
I was struck by the final expression in this beautiful Gospel in which Jesus proclaims his programme: ‘All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.’ (Luke 4:22). Jesus’ style, as Pope Francis often reminds us, is not the style of those who hurl stones. Jesus’ gracious words may at times correct and warn, however, they never lack love.
During the past few hours, I was contacted by several people who were saddened, angered and disgusted by the words uttered by one of our brothers, a priest, on gays. I was shocked as I heard and read that he said that probably being gay is worse than being possessed by the devil. These are not words of love; these are stones hurled by a heart that needs to learn how to love more, as Jesus did.
After all, as we heard in the first reading from the First Letter of St John the Apostle: ‘Beloved, we love God because He first loved us’ (1Jn 4:19). This is the experience of God who loves you as you are, where you are, whoever you are. God loves us and we love God in response to this love that He has for us. ‘Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars’ (1Jn 4:20). How can we hate? We may hate by harsh words, words of contempt, slander, calumny, insults and even detraction, whereby we diminish the respect and good name of others. What harsh words we use!
Those who listened to me proclaiming my Christmas message, heard me speak about Malta’s name that is also derived from the sweetness of honey. But unfortunately, we have so much bitterness and poison in our words towards others. This may apply to everyone: bishops, diocesan priests, priests who belong to religious orders, nuns, and to each and every one of us who form part of this family of believers in Jesus.
Our faith, that St John the Apostle tells us overcomes the world, is a faith that is derived from our response to God’s love: ‘For those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also’ (1Jn 4:20-21).
I turn to all those who feel hurt by the harsh words that they heard, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, families of gay people, who today not only feel hurt but also betrayed by the Church that they love so much: I ask for your forgiveness and I assure you that I will take measures for this not to happen again. Please pray for me as serving as a leader of a large family is not always easy.
May the Lord be our strength, our help and our light.
✠ Charles Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
Readings of the day
Reading I: 1 Jn 4: 19 -5,4
Psalm: 71 (72), 2.14, 15bc,17
Gospel: Lq 4:14-22a Lk 4:14-22a