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Rock-solid love of neighbour

The bible recounts instances when Jesus rolled up His sleeves to help others. He fed a hungry crowd, changed water into wine at a wedding, healed the sick and raised people from the dead.

He did not just pray for them or promised them the Kingdom of Heaven. He wanted to go beyond, as He made clear in the healing of a paralytic. “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” He told the sick man, which made the scribes and the Pharisees accuse Him of blasphemy, insisting that only God could forgive sins. But Jesus replied: “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk?’” and then he told the paralytic to “get up, pick up your mat and go home”.

On another occasion, He came across a man suffering from dropsy (oedema). Aware that lawyers and Pharisees were eyeing Him closely, watching His every move to see how to accuse Him, He asked them whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. When they did not react, He healed the man, adding: “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day will not immediately pull him out?”

His message was evident: doing good has no limitations and it is our duty to help those in need. No ifs or buts. Those who attended Mass over the weekend were reminded of this in the second reading (James 2: 1-5): “My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.”

If that were not enough, the pastoral letter by the Maltese bishops, which was also read in all churches over the weekend, brought the matter home.

Aptly titled ‘Building our houses on a rock’, Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Gozo Bishop Mario Grech and Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Galea Curmi, referred to the housing situation and “the difficulties faced by some of our families, many of our young people and several foreigners among us, who struggle to find accommodation that they can afford to rent or buy”.

“In the housing sector we have emergency situations where families and the elderly cannot meet the rapidly escalating rent crisis and, consequently, are ending up on the streets; where young people, sons and daughters of workers, do not qualify for a bank loan because their salaries cannot guarantee the monthly payments; and where people who are going through a crisis like a separation, mental health problems or an addiction, rely on the rental market because they either do not have their own property or do not have social housing. These new situations are creating a social emergency that requires and demands a solution and commitment from everyone, whoever he or she may be,” they wrote.

Like the scribes, the lawyers and the Pharisees at the time Jesus was on earth, there will surely be many who react with awe and indignation to such remarks. They will find it difficult to accept that such situations are a reality in this minuscule island where the economy is doing so well, unemployment is practically non-existent and living standards are so high.

The bishops’ wise words touch bread and butter issues that tend to be overlooked amid the general affluence. They repeated what Jesus had told his apostles: “The poor you will always have with you.”

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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