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Reverend Robert Galea's First Mass

1st Reading:  Isaiah 61:1-3
2nd Reading: Corinthians 4:1-2,5-7
Gospel:  Matthew 10:1-4

As I was reflecting on the readings from today’s Mass I could not go past the question which Jesus put to Peter “Peter do you love me?” This is a very loaded question. It is a question which Jesus is asking Robert and each of us here at this very moment. It is a question which captures the essence and the meaning of what we are celebrating today. It is a question which demands an answer and the quality and the nature of the answer that we give to this question manifests the seriousness and the radicalness of our walk with Jesus Christ.

What is love? Why did Jesus choose specifically to ask Peter about his love for him? Love according to our Christian way of thinking and acting has a very specific quality. Love is one of the most used words in the English language yet it is also one of the most abused words. We are literally bombarded on a daily basis through magazines, songs, T.V programmes, papers, internet, iphone, ipod with the words “I love you”. You would think that because of this we are literally swimming in a culture of love, of acceptance, of tranquility, of life giving relationships and of constant bliss. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. The reason is that this kind of Love that we are being presented with is simply “feeling good about somebody”.


As we are well aware feelings change. I may feel good about you at this present moment. However, in one hours time you may be driving me up the wall. If love is simply feeling good about someone, what am I going to do when I do not feel good about that person stop loving.


Unfortunately, this is the quality of love that we are presented with by many in our society. Love is always conditional. I love you as long as we agree. I love you as long as we are compatible. I love you as long as I like you. I love you as long as you are nice. I love you as long as I can get something out of this relationship.


Jesus’s love however is very different. It is not only feeling good about you and me. It is a decision that He made and He will always be faithful to that decision. I may turn my back to Him but He will never turn His back on me. This means that what Jesus was asking Peter was not simply, “Do you feel good about me Peter? But, “Have you decided to commit yourself to me?”


Moreover, we are also aware that when you love someone you do not relate with that person only through our head. Love demands spending time with the other person, it demands savouring that relationship, it demands experiencing the inner core of the other person, it demands doing whatever is possible to deepen that relationship. It demands knowing intimately the person whom you love in order to become as much as possible one with that person. So in reality what Jesus was saying to Peter and what he is saying to Robert and to you and me is this. “Have you decided to develop a personal and intimate relationship with me? Do you really want to be nurtured, fashioned, molded and healed by me? This is an awesome invitation. It is an awesome question with radical implications.


There is more. Jesus asks Peter this question three times. In the first two questions, the Greek word used described love is “agape”. However, in the third question, the word that John the Evangelist uses for the word love is “philo” which has strong connotations with the idea of friendship. By asking him the third question, Jesus was saying to Peter “Have you decided to by my friend?” Wow. What are the qualities of a true friend? Jesus himself tells us in the gospel of John that a true friend is a person who is prepared to die for his friend. Awesome. What Jesus was then asking of Peter is this, “Peter have you decided to be prepared even to die for me?” Robert, Jesus Christ is asking you this radical question because he knows that you have a heart that can answer “yes”. You have a heart which can say to Jesus Christ, “Yes, I have decided to base my life and whatever I do on your values and on your teachings. I am prepared to die for you”.


My friends this invitation is not directed only to Robert but to each one of us and as
Robert lifts up Jesus Christ very soon let us look at our God and answer that question. None of us is perfect. We struggle, we fall, we get discouraged, we doubt. Yet we can still make a decision to give the time and the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to guide us and to help us experience the life-giving presence of Jesus Christ deep down in our hearts.


Why does Jesus ask this of Peter, of Robert, of you and of me? The reason is because we have a very special mission. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep”. As Catholic Christians we have a radical and life-giving mission. Our mission is to change the world based on the values and teaching of Jesus Christ. We are called as a family endowed with different gifts and ministries to continue the teaching, the healing and the mission of Jesus Christ in our time. Like all of us, Robert you have been gifted with particular gifts, qualities and talents. Make our people especially those with whom you are going to be closely associated with savour the presence the healing and the real presence of Jesus. Your mission is not to bring our people to you but to Jesus Christ and this is the reason why you, like all of us have been asked to be totally dunked in His Holy Spirit.


Feed our beloved people with the Word of God. Make them experience the power of His resurrection in whatever situation they might find themselves in. Fill them with hope, guide them in their prayer life. Help them to appreciate their dignity as created by God. Help them to be formed as a community of faith. Nourish our people so that they, in turn, can sow the seed of the touch of Jesus Christ in the world of politics, education, social services, health care and in every facet of their lives. Help our people to continue to give their best to their families. Make them understand that our God is a living God. So accompany them so that they may be able to say with conviction in every circumstance of their lives the very words of Paul. “It is no longer I who lives but it is Jesus who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).


Yes our call is an awesome call. Our mission as believers in Jesus Christ aims at changing for the good radically the lives of our people. As a priest you, Robert are called in a particular manner to make this real.


This call is not without its challenge and difficulties because what Jesus stands for and therefore what we all stand for is very counter cultural and revolutionary. Robert you are not alone. Continue to work very closely with all of as your brother priests. Walk very closely with our people. Let them nourish you with their faith, wisdom, experience and faithfulness as you also nourish them with your gifts and faith. Remember also that God is with you. The very first verse of today’s first reading reminds us that God is always faithful to his promises. He will always be faithful to you. Moreover, live as a priest with a victorious mentality. We know what the end result is going to be. “At the end everything will be submitted under the Lordship of Jesus” (Eph 1). Always exercise your priestly ministry according to this belief.


Welcome to our diocesan family as a priest and may you continue to feel how much Jesus loves you. Take every opportunity to share your experience of the love of God with us. God bless you. Amen

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