Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
Today’s Gospel is very appropriate as we celebrate the investiture and the solemn rites of the Sovereign Military Order of St John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta in this extraordinary church dedicated to the Baptist.
I can even sit down and let you enjoy what Mattia Preti painted in such an extraordinary way as I used to do when I was young and my parents used to bring me here for the eleven o’clock mass and the homilies used to be quite long. That is how I learned how to appreciate Mattia Preti.
Who is John? This is the fundamental question which is very important also for the first disciples because, as you know, the first disciples were followers of John. Who is he? Who is this man that fasts, leads a very sober life, and invites people to come for full immersion? The baptism in water is a baptism that prepares one to accept the full immersion in the Holy Spirit that Christ brings.
Be witnesses of the light.
One of the extraordinary traits of the Baptist is his respect for the truth, which is his humility. “I am not the Christ, I am not Elijah, I am not the prophet” (cf Jn 1:20-21). It is Jesus the Christ who says ofJohn: “There is no greater man born of woman” (Lk 7:28). It is Jesus the Christ who said: “And he came in the spirit of Elijah” (cf Mt 11:14).
The identity of John is very important for the mission of Jesus Christ. The people of God knew that before the coming of Christ, a prophet will come in the spirit of Elijah. They were expecting Elijah. Jesus explained that John had come in the spirit of Elijah. So the identity of John is very important because it reflects on the identity of Jesus. He is the reflected light; he is not the light and he is very clear. “He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn 1:8-9).
This is something I would like to leave with you in a homily which is certainly not going to be as long as the ones I remember. Be witnesses of the light. I think that our culture needs to understand that we are not the light. Most of our interactions generate quite a lot of heat but little energy this day. We reflect the light of Jesus Christ. It would be almost blasphemy to expect that we are the source of light. However, immersing us in the Holy Spirit, Jesus does tell us: “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). And this is a great mystery. We bathe in this reflected light but through the power of the Spirit, we become sources of light, witnesses that generate light that enlighten people.
… because at the end of the day we are all poor in some way or another.
In Western culture, there has been a quest for illumination, enlightenment, and dark and musky rituals ask the initiés: What do you seek? The light! This quest for the light is one of the leitmotif of Masonic and other rituals. And this Christmas it is very important to realise that we are being called to be witnesses of the true light. In a world of fake news and fake everything including fake leaders, we need the true light who is Jesus Christ.
This is why the mission of The Sovereign Order of Malta is still very relevant and important. It is not only the defense of the faith but also the obsequium pauperum, the respect for every human being in their own fragility because at the end of the day we are all poor in some way or another. “He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18).
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta