By Andrea Tornielli
Seeing them gathered together in the Zayed Sports City Stadium, the “little flock” of Emirati Christians did not seem so little, as Pope Francis told them that living the evangelical Beatitudes did not consist in grand gestures. Although Jesus left no writings of His own, and did not build anything imposing, His very life showed that the Christian faith plays out in the actions of everyday life, and in “littleness.”
Christians are not called to perform great works or accomplish striking, extraordinary, superhuman acts. It is in the extraordinariness of the ordinary that they bear witness. It is thanks to the holiness of everyday life, without extraordinary signs, that the most surprising miracles occur. Thus Christianity flourishes, is communicated by osmosis, without need of marketing strategies, media cleverness, torrents of words, or the abilities of supermen.
The Beatitudes, turning worldly criteria on their head, “invite us keep our hearts pure, to practice meekness and justice despite everything, to be merciful to all, to live affliction in union with God.” It is like a tree, Pope Francis explained, in dry land — like that of the desert that characterises this region of the world — which every day absorbs the polluted air and restores oxygen.
The invitation to this “little flock” of Christians in the UAE is to continue to be an oasis of peace, of meekness, and of mercy — because it is the person who responds to accusations with meekness, who is blessed, rather than the one that attacks or desires to oppress others. The one who considers others as brothers and sisters is blessed, and not the one who sees only enemies.
Pope Francis points to the example of St Francis of Assisi, who, instructing the friars who were leaving for Arab lands, asked them not to quarrel or argue, but to be “subject to every human creature for love of God”, confessing to being Christians. In an age, like today, in which many people clothe themselves in armour (perhaps only virtual), the Pope recalled that Christians set out “armed only with their humble faith and concrete love.” Because the Christian lives only on these, and knows that today it is only by means of this witness that the Gospel is proclaimed.