On March 19 we celebrated the feast of St. Joseph, the patron of our cathedral. It was a full-fledged feast, the church was packed and there was great joy among our parishioners.
However, for us, there was a note of sadness, because it was the last Mass for us with Maher, a young man from our parish who left the country the following Sunday.
Maher took leave with the hope of a better future, but at the same time with the sorrow of having to go away from his homeland. On Friday during the Way of the Cross, he was assigned to carry the cross, and he could not contain his emotion.
Such feelings are always found in those who are about to depart: On the one hand, there is the joy of having received the visa (which they had been waiting for months or even years), hoping to get on with life away from the madness of hatred and violence that plagues this country. But on the other hand, there is sadness since they are leaving behind their country, their friends, their culture, their language, a whole life that they had built with great effort.
Also, we missionaries have the same feelings with the parting of each one. With the departure of every Christian, the community becomes weaker and smaller. At the same time, we share their hopes for a better future.
We thank Maher and others like him for what they have given generously, and we wish them all the best. We pray to God to protect and guide them so they would continue to be good examples in the places where they will live.
And as regards ourselves, these situations move us to put our trust not in human means but only in the power of God.
St. Paul, having repeatedly asked God to free him from the thorn in his flesh, from the messenger of Satan who buffeted him, received this reply from Christ: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Having learnt the lesson, he insisted: “As for me, I will glory only in my infirmities,” “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me,” “therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong”, “so also us: we are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God”
Hence, our little community can boast, because it is weak, because it is small, because it thus allows the glory and power of God to be made manifest. Because it is injured, needy, persecuted, and suffers distress for Christ. Because it carries the treasure of knowing Christ in “earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.”
And so we can continue to apply the words of the Apostle: “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”
“Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus.” There is no greater grace than this!
May God bless you!
Fr. Luis Montes, IVE
Institute of the Incarnate Word – Iraq