Pope in Iraq: To be blessed one need not be an occasional hero, but be a witness every day

Francis celebrated Mass in Baghdad’s Chaldean cathedral, “where wisdom arose in ancient times, so many witnesses have arisen in our own time, often overlooked by the news, yet precious in God’s eyes. Witnesses who, by living the Beatitudes, are helping God to fulfil his promises of peace.”

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Saint Joseph’s Chaldean Cathedral in Baghdad (pictured). “To be blessed, we do not need to become occasional heroes, but to become witnesses day after day,” he said during the service, his first in the ancient and solemn Chaldean rite, with chants in Arabic.

The Gospel is that of the Beatitudes, which reverses the “perspective”, said Francis. “In the eyes of the world, those with less are discarded, while those with more are privileged. Not so for God: the more powerful are subjected to rigorous scrutiny, while the least are God’s privileged ones.

“Jesus, who is Wisdom in person, completes this reversal in the Gospel, and he does so with his very first sermon, with the Beatitudes. The reversal is total: the poor, those who mourn, the persecuted are all called blessed. How is this possible? For the world, it is the rich, the powerful and the famous who are blessed! It is those with wealth and means who count! But not for God: 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.”

Jesus’s “invitation” might seem to be a defeat, but it is not. “Jesus’ invitation is wise because 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, it proved stronger than sin, in the tomb, it vanquished death. That same love made the martyrs victorious in their trials – and how many martyrs have there been in the last century, more even than in the past! Love is our strength, the source of strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice and indignities, mistreatment and persecutions for the name of Jesus.”

“Witness is the way to embody the wisdom of Jesus. That is how the world is changed: not by power and might, but by the Beatitudes. For that is what Jesus did: he lived to the end what he said from the beginning.

“Everything depends on bearing witness to the love of Jesus,” the charity that Saint Paul says is “patient”, a word in Bible that “speaks first and foremost of God’s patience.” In fact, “instead of growing weary and walking away, the Lord always remained faithful, forgave and began anew.”

“This patience to begin anew each time is the first quality of love, because love is not irritable, but always starts over again. Love does not grow weary and despondent, but always presses ahead. It does not get discouraged, but stays creative. Faced with evil, it does not give up or surrender.

“Those who love do not close in on themselves when things go wrong, but respond to evil with good, mindful of the triumphant wisdom of the cross. God’s witnesses are like that: not passive or fatalistic, at the mercy of happenings, feelings or immediate events. Instead, they are constantly hopeful, because grounded in the love that ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things’.”

“The wisdom of Jesus, embodied in the Beatitudes, calls for witness and offers the reward contained in the divine promises. For each Beatitude is immediately followed by a promise: those who practise them will possess the kingdom of heaven, they will be comforted, they will be satisfied, they will see God… (cf. Mt 5: 3-12). God’s promises guarantee unrivalled joy and never disappoint. But how are they fulfilled? Through our weaknesses. God makes blessed those who travel the path of their inner poverty to the very end.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, at times we may feel helpless and useless. We should never give in to this, because God wants to work wonders precisely through our weaknesses.” Indeed, “we experience trials, and we frequently fall, but let us not forget that, with Jesus, we are blessed. Whatever the world takes from us is nothing compared to the tender and patient love with which the Lord fulfils his promises.

“Dear sister, dear brother, perhaps when you look at your hands, they seem empty, perhaps you feel disheartened and unsatisfied by life. If so, do not be afraid: the Beatitudes are for you. For you who are afflicted, who hunger and thirst for justice, who are persecuted. The Lord promises you that your name is written on his heart, written in heaven!”

“Today I thank God with you and for you, because here, where wisdom arose in ancient times, so many witnesses have arisen in our own time, often overlooked by the news, yet precious in God’s eyes. Witnesses who, by living the Beatitudes, are helping God to fulfil his promises of peace.”

In his address, Card Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, thanked Pope Francis, saying that the unity of the human family should push us to “consider ourselves to be one family, care for the common home and [show] solidarity, as well as help overcome oppressive crises such as the coronavirus pandemic, poverty, emigration, extremism, terrorism and environmental problems”.