Bonus Altor (A kind and loving father)

The Archbishop's homily during the episcopal ordination of Mgr Joseph Galea-Curmi, Auxiliary Bishop of Malta


  • Homily by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna

     

  • St Paul's Cathedral, Mdina

    4th August 2018


    Dear Fr Joe,

    I thank you, on behalf of the Church in Malta, for accepting the new mission that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is entrusting to you from the hands of His Holiness Pope Francis. I thank God for all the people that guided you towards this total self-giving as a successor of the Apostles, as a bishop who is called to give his life for his sheep. The first thought that goes through my mind is for your beloved parents, Paul and Josette. As an exemplary Christian married couple who nourished you with their loving care, they taught you and your brother and sisters to cherish life with love.

    I greet the parish of St Joseph the Worker, Birkirkara, and the parish of the Annunciation, Ħal Balzan, that throughout the years have become for you a school of nourishment and love.

    Nourishment and love are the distinctive marks and characteristics of every true fatherhood.

    Nourishment and love are the distinctive marks and characteristics of every true fatherhood. The gesture of the washing of the feet that Jesus chose to identify and express his mission is a gesture of our fatherhood in service and self-giving: “Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:28) “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.’” (Jn 13, 12-17) This is the beatitude of the bishop, this is his honour and glory: “To tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it—not for sordid gain but eagerly.  Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.” (1 Pt 5, 2-4)

    The fatherhood of the bishop is not a cheap fatherhood. It carries a price.

    The fatherhood of the bishop is not a cheap fatherhood. It carries a price. The Apostle Paul, the father of our nation, expresses it in stirring words in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (2 Cor 3, 1-3)

    “Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.  We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.” “For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.  For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4, 1-2; 5-9)

    Put in this way, one values more the Apostle’s heartfelt call to imitate his Lord and Master: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor 5, 14-15)

    The mission of the bishop today, your mission, dear Bishop Joseph, is a clear and true sign of the presence of Jesus among his people.

    The mission of the bishop today, your mission, dear Bishop Joseph, is a clear and true sign of the presence of Jesus among his people. As St Paul writes: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” “As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, at an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Cor 5, 20-21; 6, 1-10)

    In the Liturgy of the Hours, in the Common of Pastors, precisely in the hymn of the Office of Readings, the title of the Latin version celebrates the pastors who fulfilled their ministry after the Lord’s heart: in this beautiful hymn, the holy Pastor is called Bonus Altor. Altor is the father that nourishes his children with love. My wish and prayer for you, dear Bishop Joseph, is to bring the good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God (cf. Is 61, 1-3a). My prayer for you today is that you will always be a Bonus Altor: A kind Father that nourishes his children with loving care.

     Charles J. Scicluna

        Archbishop of Malta


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  • Readings:
    1st Reading: Isaiah 61, 1-3a
    Psalm: 89
    2nd Reading: 1 Peter 5, 1-4
    Gospel: John 13, 1-15


     
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  • Photos: Curia - church.mt/photos