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How heartening to read in the newspaper today that Ariana Grande has been made an honorary citizen of Manchester.
 “Love is stronger than evil,” was the theme of the second Ariana Grande concert in Manchester which I watched on my computer screen. To be honest I felt the music belonged to a generation other than mine, and anyway I could not understand the sung words.
But what a thrill to hear every performer, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, standing before the throng, and proclaiming, “LOVE OVERCOMES EVIL, YES ? ”, and then readily receiving the vociferous agreement of that huge gathering of youth. It really was a magnificent ‘liturgy’, if the clerical purists will permit me to use the term in this context !
“Liturgy” means “the work of the people of God”, and whatever the allegiances of that mass of people, surely they were the People of God in that very moment of proclaiming what is in  the hearts of all  “Believers of the Book”, (Jews, Christians and Muslims), and at the heart of human existence.
I was reminded of the Bataclan massacre in Paris and the words of Antoine Leiris to his wife’s killers:
“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being;  the love of my life, the mother of my son. But you will not have my hatred.
I do not know who you are, and I don’t want to know  -  you are dead souls. The God for whom you killed so blindly made us in his image: so each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in God. Therefore I will not give you the gift of hating you.   You have obviously sought it, but responding to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are”.
Somewhere, somewhere in these experiences are surely to be found still, the strong roots of our faith whether we be Jew Christian or Muslim;  roots which have survived the toxic materialism of our age buried as it were, underground. Their legitimacy at Manchester was confirmed by the accompaniment of sheer joy,  the joy that goes with true faith, that joy of which Popes Benedict and Francis have both spoken eloquently.
How can these roots be enabled to sprout again ?    The Leader of Manchester City Council said of Ariana, “. . . a young American woman for whom it would have been understandable if she never wanted to see this place again”. . .  “determined not to perform again until she had returned to Manchester”. Overcoming the thoughts of a possible recurrence of the tragedy, she came back, drawing all her rejoicing fans with her.

If there is to be a revival of our faith, it will be because believers give a generous and joy filled witness  to the love they profess. Both of those qualifications are vital.


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