Floriana (AsiaNews) - "It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land”. This is just one of the salient passages of the homily Benedict XVI held this morning in Granaries Square, Floriana, in front of tens of thousands of people who welcomed the pontiff on his second day visiting the island of Malta.
The visit to this Mediterranean island is linked to last year’s Pauline Year: Malta is in fact mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, as the place that welcomed Paul after a storm and a providential shipwreck (Acts 27-28). Thanks to that wreck, Paul lived for a few months on the island where he preached the gospel, creating the first Christian community.
Benedict XVI took as an example, what the sailors of the ship carrying the Apostle did, following his instructions, to save all during a shipwreck: “Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves.”
The conclusion is: "More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment" .
Malta, with less than 500 thousand inhabitants, is an almost entirely Catholic country, with laws that do not allow divorce or abortion. Its location in the Mediterranean and its being a tourist destination puts it at the crossroads of relations with other cultures and mentalities. The Pope praised the Maltese capacity to welcome travellers, but added that it discernment is necessary: " Not everything that today’s world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church. "
And referring to the Gospel today (John 21,1-19), the miraculous catch of fish after a fruitless night, he added: "[The disciples, all experienced fishermen] Left to themselves, their efforts were fruitless; when Jesus stood alongside them, they netted a huge quantity of fish. My dear brothers and sisters, if we place our trust in the Lord and follow his teachings, we will always reap immense rewards. In addition to the miraculous catch, the gospel of the risen Jesus reminds us of the dialogue with Peter and the threefold question, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?". "The miraculous catch highlighted the apostles dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of God’s grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing."
Malta is the first pastoral visit of the pope after the massive campaign against him following the scandal of paedophile priests, some cases have occurred even in Malta. According to the director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, the pope will meet - but out of the eye of the media - some victims of abuse.
In his homily, the pope did not mention the scandals at all, but he called on priests to fulfil their mission. "Remember ... the question that the Risen Lord put three times to Peter: “Do you love me?” That is the question he asks each of you. Do you love him? Do you wish to serve him through the gift of your whole lives? Do you long to bring others to know and love him? With Peter, have the courage to answer, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” and accept with grateful hearts the beautiful task that he has assigned you. The mission entrusted to priests is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world".
Benedict XVI concluded by inviting the Maltese Catholics to strengthen their faith and at the same time witness mission to all those who they encounter: " Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paul’s gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. ... . Remember that the exchange of goods between these islands and the world outside is a two-way process. What you receive, evaluate with care, and what you have that is of value, be sure to share with others".
At the end of Mass, Benedict XVI added a few words before singing the Regina Caeli announcing his gift of a golden rose to Our Lady of Ta 'Pinu, "as a sign of our filial affection." He also asked the Maltese to "pray to her under the title Queen of the Family, a title added to the Litany of Loreto by my beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul II, himself on more than one occasion a visitor to these shores."