The Malta Independent 21 February 2019, Thursday

Did Malta’s patron saint land in the wrong place?

Victor Calleja Sunday, 10 February 2019, 09:30 Last update: about 10 days ago

Today is the day Malta seems united as it celebrates one thing: St Paul, the man who saw the light in Damascus, was shipwrecked in Malta and converted us to Christianity.

Whether it was providential that St Paul – previously known as Saul – was sent here after the sinking of his galley is one of those moot points which engulf us in what if? scenarios. What if our grand patron saint had not converted us? What if we had remained pagan and fancy-free?

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Can you imagine a world without our cherished Christianity? A world where all of us, Maltese and Gozitans, did not care about each other and did not care about things like our environment, truth and justice? Where we approve of people – humans like us – drifting off in horrendous conditions just because we want to win a point or two. Where, horror of horrors, because we are not Christian, we are greedy beyond compare? Or when we sit on fences when others need us to show solidarity and support?

But no – perish the thought. History, or whatever, tells us that St Paul did come ashore in Malta when he, with other travellers to Rome, was shipwrecked and miraculously saved, and converted us from pagans to kind, considerate Christians.

If the only mission for the saint was to convert us to Christianity, he could have saved himself the bother. He could have avoided the light that converted him in Damascus. He could easily have eluded us rather than land on our shores where we bid him a warm welcome, albeit slightly belatedly – initially we thought he was a demon before deciding he was a God.

Throughout the centuries, we have rarely paid much more than lip service to what Jesus, his apostles or prophets preached about truth, justice and really caring about people. In fact, what we have paid most homage to is unadulterated hypocrisy. And when it suited us, we even dumped religion – or rather its tenets of doing the right thing.

What we love in our religion is not the essence of Christianity, but the pomp, the show, the colour, the whole veneer that makes us shine on the outside but not care a hoot on the inside. How else would we allow the rape of this land and the rest of the sad swindles to keep going in the name of progress?

Christianity, the real essence of it, is to all intents and purposes quite close to most other world religions in preaching that we should do no harm and love everyone as ourselves. Even those dreaded, detested-by-fundamentalists humanists follow the same creed – of looking after our land for ourselves and for the future, of loving one another.

Most of us, even the most religious among us, are racists. We think we are some superior race sent by, or chosen by, God, Jesus and St Paul. I do not know the exact genesis of God and the colour of his skin, but the chances that Jesus and Paul were dark is quite high. Yet we –silly us who are rather grey or darker – think we are some Aryan race that does not like the Somalis, Nigerians or any North Africans.

Anyone different from us is seen through skewered lenses. We, the truly washed, the anointed, the enlightened Christians, are disgusted by people who are not like us.

Today Malta is, on the surface, doing brilliantly economically. We are the envy not of the world as some of our leaders think. But we are the envy of quite a few people living in economic recession all around us in countries which realistically should be faring better than us.

No wealth gives us any special God-or-St Paul-given right to feel superior.

St Paul came here to enlighten us. Two thousand years down the line, we have absolutely no idea of the real meaning of the saint’s message from Jesus Christ. We have become hollow and corrupt to the core.

 

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