Pope Francis says that although Christians are still persecuted and killed in the name of God, the Holy Spirit gives them the strength to face martyrdom as they bear witness to their faith. The Pope was speaking during his homily on Monday at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.
Pope Francis finds inspiration in the Gospel reading of the day in which Jesus says to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you will also testify”.
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He explains that the Lord speaks of the future, of the Cross that awaits us, and he speaks of the Holy Spirit who helps us give witness as Christians.
He also speaks of “the scandal of persecutions”, the “scandal of the Cross”.
The Pope points out that the life of the Church is a journey that is guided by the Holy Spirit who reminds us of Jesus’ words and “teaches us things that Jesus wasn’t able to tell us”.
The Holy Spirit – he says – is our companion in this journey and defends us from “the scandal of the Cross”.
And the Pope points out that the Cross is a scandal for the Jews who “ask for signs” and it is foolishness for the Greeks – the pagans – who “ask for knowledge and new ideas”.
Christians on the other hand – says Pope Francis – preach the crucified Christ. So Jesus prepares his disciples: “They will expel you from the synagogues: in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God”:
“Today we are seeing those who kill Christians in the name of God because they think they are not believers. This is Christ’s Cross: ‘They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me’. This happened to me – Jesus says – it will happen to you too – the persecutions, the tribulations – but do not be scandalized: the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us understand”.
Pope Francis then recalled Sunday’s telephone conversation with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II on the occasion of the “Day of friendship between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church”.
“I was remembering the faithful of his Church who were slain on the beach because they were Christians. Thanks to the strength given them by the Holy Spirit they were not scandalized. They died with the name of Jesus on their lips. This is the strength of the Spirit. The testimony. Martyrdom is the supreme testimony”.
But – Pope Francis continues – there is also the testimony we give every day, the testimony of rendering present the life-giving message of Easter which guides us towards the truth and reminds us of Jesus’ words:
“A Christian who does not take the dimension of martyrdom seriously in life does not understand the road that Jesus has indicated: a road that invites us to bear witness every day, defending the rights of others; defending our children; mothers and fathers who defend their family; so many sick people who bear witness and suffer for the love of Jesus. All of us have the possibility of bringing forward this life-giving Easter message, bearing witness, without being scandalized”.
Pope Francis concludes with this prayer: “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to receive the Holy Spirit who will remind us of Jesus’ words, who will guide us in truth throughout our lives and prepare us to bear witness in our lives, with small every day martyrdoms, or with a great martyrdom, according to God’s will”.