By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis told the largely-expat Catholic community living in the United Arab Emirates that Jesus walks at our side, even when we think we are alone.
The vast majority of Christians living in the UAE are migrants who have mostly come from the Philippines and India to look for work.
Celebrating Mass in the Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, the Holy Father brought them a message of comfort and hope.
“It is most certainly not easy for you to live far from home,” he said, “missing the affection of your loved ones, and perhaps also feeling uncertainty about the future.” But, the Pope said, “the Lord is faithful and does not abandon his people.”
Peace in midst of pain
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass for Peace and Justice, and reflected on how the Beatitudes relate to Christians living in the Middle East.
He said they are blessed, and noted that blessedness is not a future state but a present reality. Jesus, he said, repeats his message of blessing today. “If you are with Jesus, if you love to listen to his word as the disciples of that time did, if you try to live out this word every day, then you are blessed.”
The Pope called it “a joy that gives peace also in the midst of pain”.
Beatitudes: roadmap for life
Pope Francis said Jesus’ life shows us that blessedness cannot be measured according to worldly standards. The Beatitudes overturn popular thinking that those who are successful, rich, and powerful are blessed. Rather, the poor, meek, just, and persecuted attain that category.
“He came to serve and not to be served,” said Pope Francis, “he taught us that greatness is not found in having but rather in giving.”
The Pope said the meaning of life is living “in communion with him and in our love for others”.
The Beatitudes, said Pope Francis, are a roadmap for life. “They do not require superhuman actions, but rather the imitation of Jesus in our everyday life.”
He thanked all those present – some 180,000 persons from over 100 countries, including around 4,000 Muslims – for “the way in which you live the Gospel we heard.”
Comparing the written and lived Gospel to written and performed music, Pope Francis said they know the Gospel’s tune and follow its rhythm with enthusiasm. “You are a choir composed of numerous nations, languages and rites; a diversity that the Holy Spirit loves and wants to harmonize ever more, in order to make a symphony.”
Then Pope Francis compared the Church of the UAE to the ancient Church of Philadelphia, which Jesus addresses in the Book of Revelation (Rev 3:7-13). The Pope said the Lord does not reproach it for anything. “That Church,” he said, “kept Jesus’ word without renouncing his name and persevered, went forward, even in the midst of difficulties.”
Philadelphia, he noted, means “brotherly love” or “fraternal love”, a reference to his attendance at the Global Conference of Human Fraternity on Monday.
Pope Francis concluded by inviting all people of the United Arab Emirates – indeed the entire region – “to preserve peace, unity”, and “to take care of each other, with that beautiful fraternity in which there are no first or second class Christians.”