[NOTE: I wrote this reflection in the fall of 2006. In the eight years since, so much has changed and so little.]
My thought today is a simple one: go to worship this weekend. Not out of burden or duty, but out of gratitude that you can. I spent time with a Christian group in Iraq and was struck by how difficult and sometimes impossible it is there to go to worship.
I was unable to attend church more often than not in Iraq – I missed church because the times of worship change to accommodate the before-dark curfew. Another week I was on the Syrian border with Palestinian friends running for their lives. Many times a priest friend would tell us not to come, that it was not safe today. ‘Maybe next week’, he said week after week.
And then there was the day we actually made it – the day that churches instead of mosques were bombed. On our way, we saw the black smoke of car bombs at churches in the area. Six in all. But that day, it wasn’t the church we were going to attend.
Never before have I had to risk my life to worship in community, to go to church. It has given me a profound gratitude for the privilege of gathering with the communion of the saints.
One evening at Mass in a nearby Catholic church, I wept at the courage of the gathered community who risked their lives to gather. This night the priest said, “You are the result of God’s love, not it’s cause.” I will never forget his words. For such love, my Iraqi friends, Christian, Muslim, Yezidi, and others, gather still.
Pray for them, please. Pray for us. Go and worship.