The wise investor
The gospel of Wednesday, 16 November, of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary time, spoke about investing well. In the Gospel taken from Luke 19:1128 Jesus recounts the parable about making use of what God has given us. The moral of the parable is crystal clear: the more we invest the more we gain. On the other hand, the less we invest the more we lose what we were given to invest!
On that unforgettable Wednesday morning, precisely at 8.46am, the Franciscan Capuchin Friars, the Maltese Church and society lost one of their greatest people, Fr Joe Saliba OFM Cap. I had the joy of knowing Fr Joe for almost 23 years. Moreover I had the privilege of working with him at Mater Dei Hospital as one of my fellow hospital chaplains for more than three years.
Fr Joe was an excellent investor. He invested in the best investment ever: God’s Kingdom. He gave his faithful allegiance completely to the best businessman that can ever exist: Jesus Christ. In the Matthean Gospel Jesus taught us that “every sound tree bears good fruit” (Matt 7:17). Fr Joe’s holy life bore abundant good fruit. From the early days of his call to the Franciscan Capuchin consecrated life, this ardent Marsa man for Jesus, clearly understood and wonderfully interiorised Saint Paul’s encouraging words to the Colossian Community: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col 2:6-7).
The good fruit the Holy Spirit did in and through Fr Joe is undoubtedly abundant. I would like to limit myself to some of his main virtues. The first virtue which excelled in Fr Joe’s consecrated life was his availability to everyone. He was always there to help generously. One of Fr Joe’s favourite bible verses that piloted his life was the following: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). How many times he volunteered to help me in my shift? Especially when I was asked to work extra hours? How many times Fr Joe relieved my other brother chaplains from their stressful mission by working extra hours to help them get back their strength?
To paraphrase Pope Francis’ homily delivered at the Jubilee for Priests celebrated in Rome on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, last June, Fr Joe’s priestly heart was modelled on that of the Good Shepherd. He compassionately and consistently reached out to everyone, “above all to those who are most distant”. In Pope Francis’ words, Fr Joe was “stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one. Not only [did] he keep his doors open, but he also [went] to seek out those who no longer wish to enter them. Like every good Christian, and as an example for every Christian, he constantly [went] out of himself. The epicentre of his heart [was] outside of himself. He [was] centred only in Jesus, not in himself. He [was] not attracted by his own ‘I’, but by the ‘Thou’ of God and by the ‘we’ of other men and women”.
But from where did Fr Joe attain such power to do good for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health? Surely from the Tabernacle! If I wanted to look for Fr Joe I knew where to find him: praying before the Tabernacle! His love for the Eucharistic Jesus filled him with the necessary energy he needed to keep living his life for his brethren, especially the sick.
Fr Joe strongly believed and lived Pope Francis’ reflection which was addressed to us priests at Cassano all’Jonio on 21 June 2014. “When we priests are before the Tabernacle, and we pause a moment there, in silence, then we feel Jesus’ look again on us, and this look renews us, it reanimates us …”
Thank you Fr Joe for being such a generous, praying, humble and joyous priest! Pray for us to be wise investors as you certainly were!
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap Marsa