On Monday 10th October 2016, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna delivered a sermon during the Ceremony of Investiture by the Chancellor of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, at St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral, Valletta.
Sermon by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral
10th October 2016
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Lk 10:36).
This is the question Jesus puts to the doctor of the law (the lawyer), and he responds, “The one who showed him mercy”. This is the one who was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers. Jesus said to him: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10, 37) and this is the word Jesus tells each and every one of us today, in this Solemn Investiture into an extraordinary family of neighbours.
We usually think about neighbours as those who put on the radio too loudly at night, or those who create more than one inconvenience, and we call them ‘neighbours’. But the Lord invites to be neighbours, that is, to do as he did. He who was the Son of God, did not think that being the Son of God was something that we could grasp, but he was stripped of his divinity, becoming man – obedient, obedient unto death, obedient unto death on the cross.
St Paul reminds us of this mystery of God becoming man, tells us that this is his news, his way of thinking and tells us ‘try to have the same attitude, the same way of thinking’. Thus, the Fathers of the Church, rereading this beautiful parable which Jesus gives us in Luke Chapter 10, tell us this Good Samaritan as we call him, is actually Jesus himself.
He sees this man – humanity going out from Jerusalem to Jericho. As you might know, Jericho is one of the lowest lying cities in the world, it is well below sea level and it is an image of the Bible of going down to the abyss. Jesus sees humanity going down in the abyss of sin and he comes to the rescue; he is the Good Samaritan. He comes to the rescue, not by remaining afar but becoming with us, becoming a neighbour to us.
“He saw him”, Jesus himself says, “and he was moved with pity” (v. 33). Another word for pity would be compassion. This is the movement of the heart of God that inspires and motivates the mystery of the Incarnation, that is, God becoming man, save us. That is why he is not only called ‘Jesus’, ‘God saves’ – Jeshua, but also ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. In one name, there is what he does to us: he saves us that is he comes to us, bandages our wounds having poured oil and wine on them, he puts us on his own animal, brings us to the inn and takes care of us. He takes out two denari and gives them to the innkeeper and says: “take care of him. When I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend” (v. 35). This is all done in the other name ‘Emmanuel’, he saves us by being close to us and being one of us.
This is the mission for which you have been called. In so many occasions, you are very close to people who need their wounds bandaged. You need to put them on your vehicles and bring them to ‘the inn’, to the hospitals, to ‘the inns’ where they are to be taken care of. You are the good Samaritans but remember that the first Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ himself and he teaches us to be good neighbours, by being the first good neighbours. He pitched his tent among us and he saves us by being one of us. He is Jesus by being Emmanuel.
In this Year of Mercy you received this mission from Jesus: “Go and do likewise”, go and be merciful. It is the neighbour, the one who showed mercy. That is why you should remember that there is another name which also gives great depth to your mission and it is the name of John, ‘Johanann’, ‘God is merciful’. Thus, being blessed by the name of John you also receive the mission of being a very beautiful image of mercy in today’s world.
We often complain and become very sad because we see so much greed around us, so much violence, and so much intolerance. What should be our answer? Certainly not to say ‘never’. Our answer should be the mercy Jesus showed us when he, the Good Samaritan, who saw humanity in such dire straits that he decided to be one of us to heal us, to save us. We will answer all the ailments of the world by being merciful, by being true spiritual sons of John the Baptist. “‘Which of these was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’. ‘The one who showed mercy’. Jesus said to him: ‘Go and do likewise’”.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta