By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday told Iraq’s Catholics that they are precious in the eyes of God because they witness to the Beatitudes of Jesus in their daily life. He said they are witnesses who, by living the Beatitudes, are helping God fulfil His promises of peace.
The Pope made the observation in the homily during his first public Eucharistic Celebration, called the Divine Liturgy in the Chaldean rite and in other Eastern rites, which he presided over in the evening in Saint Joseph’s Chaldean Cathedral in the capital, Baghdad.
He based his homily on the day’s reading on the Beatitudes from St. Matthew’s Gospel, and explained the wisdom of the Beatitudes and how they are practiced in daily life to help fulfil God’s promises.
Wisdom of the Beatitudes
The Pope pointed out that the search for wisdom has always attracted men and women. But often those with more means can acquire more knowledge and have greater opportunities, while those who have less are side-lined.
“Such inequality, which has increased in our time,” the Pope said, “is unacceptable." However, the Book of Wisdom reverses this logic, when its says, “the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy, but the mighty will be mightily tested.” The more powerful are subjected to rigorous scrutiny, while the least are God’s privileged ones.
And Jesus, who is Wisdom in person, brings about this total reversal with the Beatitudes. The poor, those who mourn, the persecuted are all called blessed.
It is no longer the rich that are great, but the poor in spirit; not those who can impose their will on others, but those who are gentle with all; not those acclaimed by the crowds, but those who show mercy to their brother and sisters.
Love: the heart of the Beatitudes
The Pope explained that the invitation of Jesus to love, which is the heart of the Beatitudes, even if it seems weak in the world’s eyes, in fact always triumphs.
On the Cross, love proved stronger than sin, and in the tomb, it vanquished death. It is the same love that made the martyrs victorious in their trials, Pope said, adding that in the last century there have been many more martyrs than in the past.
Love has also been the strength of Iraq’s Christians, who have suffered prejudice and indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus. St Paul emphasizes this point in the second reading of the Divine Liturgy, when he tells the Corinthians, “Love never ends.”
“While the power, the glory and the vanity of the world pass away,” the Pope said, “love remains.” The practice of the Beatitudes asks us to become witnesses, day after day, by living meekly, showing mercy and by having a pure heart. “Witness is the way to embody the wisdom of Jesus,” the Pope emphasized, adding that the world is changed “not by power and might, but by the Beatitudes”.
Love is patient
St Paul further explains how one can bear witness to the love of Jesus. Love seems synonymous with goodness, generosity and good works, yet Paul says that “love is patient.”
First and foremost, the Bible speaks of God’s patience with men and women who throughout history have been unfaithful, falling into the same old sins, said the Pope. Yet the Lord always remained faithful, forgave and began anew. This patience to begin anew each time is the first quality of love. It does not get discouraged, give up, or surrender, but stays creative and responds to evil with good. God’s witnesses, the Pope said, are not passive or fatalistic but are constantly hopeful.
In the face of adversity, the Pope explained, there are always two temptations – either to run away and keep aloof, or react with anger and show force. This was the case of the disciples in Gethsemane when many fled and Peter drew his sword. Yet neither flight nor the sword achieved anything.
Jesus, on the other hand, changed history with the humble power of love, with His patient witness, which is what we are called to do; and this is how God fulfils His promises.
Promises of the Beatitudes
The wisdom of Jesus embodied in the Beatitudes, the Pope continued, calls for witness and offers divine promises, such as the kingdom of heaven, comfort, satisfaction or seeing the face of God, which guarantee unrivalled joy and never disappoint.
The Pope said they are fulfilled through our weaknesses and inner poverty, and the Biblical figures, such as Abraham and his wife Sarah, Moses, Our Lady and Peter are proof of this.
The Pope thus urged Iraq’s Christians never to give in to feeling helpless and useless, saying “God wants to work wonders precisely through our weaknesses.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis thanked God with and for the Christians of Iraq, for the many witnesses “in our own time,” who are “often overlooked by the news," yet are "precious in God’s eyes.” They are “witnesses who, by living the Beatitudes, are helping God to fulfil His promises of peace.”