Pope Francis has just completed the 1st ever Papal Visit to Iraq.
It was moving and powerful to see the faces of the local Christians overjoyed to see him.
I was particularly struck by the uplifting music and a procession of dancers dressed in various traditional costumes acting like a guard of honour as he walked between them.
Christians number around 300,000 people today in a Christian population that numbered well over 1 million in former times. So many have left because of wars and persecution.
Pope Francis, the Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the people themselves captured for me something of today’s Gospel taken from John 3: 14-21. In a place that has experienced so much destruction and death because some people prefer the darkness here was an occasion where light overcame that darkness. Where those who live by the truth come out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what is done is done in God.
And it was plainly seen for all the world to see.
For all those Christians living outside Iraq and those living here in New Zealand I wonder how you reacted to see the Holy Father walk in your homeland. May you be strengthened and uplifted in your faith and culture and be renewed in love for the country of your birth and her people.
The famous Psalm 136/137 which begins ‘By the rivers of Babylon’ is used in today’s liturgy and recalls the exile of Jewish people in Babylon in Old Testament times and is the song I have chosen for you to listen to today. Simply click on the underlined titles below and you will be taken to the album ‘Making Music to Your Name’, scroll down to the song which is ‘Let My Tongue be Silenced’ and click on the song title.
Let us remember all those who live outside their homelands because of persecution, wars, and poverty. May we in our conversations and encounters with people always prefer the light to the darkness.