The last few weeks I have been on Malta in my capacity of “locum” at St Andrew’s Scots church which means I am, until the first week of December, the minister of this very ecumenical congregation.
As locums are only part time I have a day or two a week to visit and blend in with the tourists. But there is no need to go sightseeing to realise that Malta is one big building site. On my way back from Valletta to the flat I call home while I am here, I wondered if I would be able to photograph a different crane for every day of my stay, well that was quickly answered, within 5 minutes I had spotted more than 10! And later I discovered that from the balcony of my flat I can actually spot 7 of them!!!
Wherever you go here people are building, either flats for the residents and “swallows” (expats who come when the weather appeals to them) or hotels for the tourists.
But of course it is not just new buildings that are constructed. Over the past years old fortresses, towers and other medieval buildings have been beautifully restored too.
As I look at both the old and the new buildings I can’t help but think of those knights of St John and especially of Jean de (la) Valette grandmaster of the order of Hospitaliers (who coincidently was born not far from where we are in France) and I think of all the building work they did: the “auberges” which are houses where the knights lived, socialised and offered hospitality to pilgrims, the churches, the hospitals but also the fortresses, the amazingly solid walls built to protect but on the one hand but also to keep the enemy, in their case the pirates and the armies of the Ottoman empire, out on the other.
With possibly, the exception of the nomadic people, being human means building walls of one kind or another and yet as I look at these enormous defence structures I realise that sometimes we create walls for the wrong reasons; we create walls not because we are in danger but because we do not want to share.
I once read somewhere that a society that builds walls to keep others out is a society on its last legs. I guess such walls could be described as walls without gates.
A healthy society on the other hand will keep its gates wide open and there is a coming and going of people, of knowledge, of trade etc…
The ancient city of Jerusalem is said to have had 12 gates.
Such gates were busy places, places where people met; people from the town but also outsiders who came for business or on pilgrimage ; people from different cultures, speaking different languages, in and near those gates deals were made, decisions taken.
As for Jesus, though he healed and ministered at city gates it is maybe more significant that his journey to Calvary started with him entering the Holy city through the Eastern gate sitting on a donkey while men, women and children welcomed him with palms, shouting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…”
May we never build walls to protect ourselves without including gates to let the other in; especially the sick, the poor, the lost and the refugees. For by welcoming others we welcome Jesus himself
Blessings to you all
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”(Matthew 25:40)