Traces N.4, April 2021

The vaccine

How do we react in situations that are not right?” Pope Francis asked at a certain point during his visit to Iraq. “In the face of adversity, there are always two temptations,” he said, “running away or getting angry,” neither of which achieves anything. “Jesus, on the other hand, changed history. How? With the humble power of love, with His patient witness. This is what we are called to do, and this is how God fulfils his promises.” Francis spoke of these promises that never disappoint and that are fulfilled in an unimaginable way–through our weaknesses–in the presence of the witnesses who were the reason for his journey: “Witnesses often overlooked by the news, yet precious in God’s eyes.” He looked at them, admired them, and placed them before the eyes of the world.
This is the reason we chose to dedicate space to his visit to the land of Abraham, to the words and gestures of those short but intense days in Baghdad, Erbil, Mosul, and Qaraqosh. In places where violence destroyed everything, the pope pointed to a reality still present: a people for whom evil and death do not have the last word because Christ is risen. The victory of familiarity with God upholds these men’s and women’s lives, which are lived out through forgiveness and specific histories and faces. He pointed to the Christian people, whom history seems to have defeated. They, through persecution, were stripped of everything but didn’t lose anything because they possess the treasure that is worth more than life itself: they are woven together in a relationship, in their belonging to Christ.

Stopping to look at them, as Francis did, can offer help for the situation we are all facing. “There will be moments when faith can waver, when it seems that God does not see or act,” he said. “This was true for you in the darkest days of the war, and it is true too in these days of global health crisis and great insecurity.” The problem, however, is not a question of resilience. It is under the pressures of life that we see more clearly who is up to the task and that we find people “who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.” Those who, rather than running away, engage with reality, living life without being at the mercy of their circumstances, or of suffering, injustice, or the daily restrictions that exist at every level. You will see this in the stories in this issue that have come from CL communities, stories in which the “I” is reborn through an encounter with Christ, and in which a new perception of life generates real protagonists. “We know how easy it is to be infected by the virus of discouragement that at times seems to spread all around us,” we read in the pope’s speech in Baghdad. “Yet the Lord has given us an effective vaccine. It is hope.” It is the certainty that we are no longer alone. “Let us never forget that Christ is proclaimed above all by the witness of lives transformed by the joy of the Gospel. A living faith in Jesus is ‘contagious’; it can change the world.”