Homily by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna
Holy Family Church, Bidnija
23rd October 2017
“Xejn la tibżgħu” (Lk 12, 7), do not be afraid, non avere paura. This is the message of Jesus that I would like to convey to the Maltese people as the spiritual shepherd of Malta: “Do not be afraid”. What the killer sought to do at this hour last week was to frighten and terrorise us. We do not know his identity. May human justice give him what he deserves. God knows his identity. God’s justice is true and timely.
“Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows”, Luke continues. If we cannot be afraid, the lesson we must draw today is that we must look after one another.
We must create a culture where whoever contributes to society must do so for the common good and not for personal gain.
How striking, while at the same time how paradoxical it is, that in Maltese we use the same verb for both a positive or a negative meaning: la tibżax, imma fl-istess ħin ejjew nibżgħu għal xulxin (Do not be afraid but at the same time let us look after one another). At the root of this ‘looking after one another’ is protection, solidarity that springs from a culture where, although we disagree on many issues and agree on many others, we still protect each other, we look after one another, we defend each other, we stand out for each other, we love each other. You might tell me, “You are demanding too much of us”. I do not lose heart for I firmly believe that we must be resolute in not yielding to fear. In order to achieve this, we must start by looking after one another.
We must create a culture where whoever contributes to society must do so for the common good and not for personal gain. You might tell me, “You are a dreamer”. I will not tell you “let me dream”, rather “dream with me so that this dream will become reality”. When we think only of ourselves, our anger and fear are entrenched in personal interest. When we sense that our personal interest is under threat we defend it at all costs and this inevitably leads to the destruction of each other. If we, on the other hand, work and strive for the common good, we are not afraid but choose to look after each other instead.
Jesus uses very hard words in today’s Gospel reading according to Saint Luke (Lk 12, 1-7). We must keep in mind that this narrative was written in a time of persecutions. The author of this text addresses the community that is suffering persecutions. At the time when these words of the Lord were recorded, they already had a very special resonance in the community. They are certainly still very relevant to us today.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more” (v. 4). What did the killer gain a week ago? Can he sleep with a clear conscience? The killer engulfed us in great sorrow for he left Daphne’s family bereft of a mother, a wife, a daughter. He also denied an entire country of a journalist who made others uncomfortable. But in actual fact, what did the killer stand to gain? What dignity can he see when he looks at himself?
Mercy for Daphne and for her killer. Justice for Daphne and for her killer.
“Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more”. Jesus’ words are powerful in their clarity. “Fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell” (v. 5), for he will judge you justly and will respect your decision to live without him for his mercy is for everyone. Mercy for Daphne and for her killer. Justice for Daphne and for her killer.
Today we are making an act of faith and an act of prayer; we are making an act of faith in him who said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14, 6). On the road to Bidnija life was changed to death and truth was silenced but our faith in Jesus completes the victory of he who is the way, the truth, and the life. Let us pray so that we foster a culture of truth, a true culture of solidarity, of honesty. Only such a culture is the true culture of life, only such a culture builds us as a people. Let us not be afraid, but at the same time let us look after one another.
My solemn appeal today is that we be not afraid. What happened today week was intended to make us fear an unknown force, an unknown force of evil. Our resolve today is that where there is violence, we will work for peace, where there is hatred we will work for love, where there is injustice we will strive for justice, where there is fear we will work for courage, where there is division we will work for unity. We pray for Daphne and her family but we also pray for our island nation that we may promote a culture of solidarity, of integrity, of honesty on all levels. May our resolve be blessed through the mercy of God. Amen.
Let us pray in silence for all victims of violence and hate.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
Photos: Curia Communications Office