Pope: More martyrs exist today than in the early Church

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 4, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.

In his daily homily Pope Francis called persecution a “reality” of Christian life, challenging faithful to take up the cross and noting that we are never given more than we can handle.

“But (people say) 'today we are better educated and these things no longer exist.' Yes they do!” the Pope said March 4.

“And I tell you that today there are more martyrs than during the early times of the Church.”

Centering his reflections on the day's Gospel taken from Mark – in which Peter asks Christ what the disciples will receive for following him – the Pope pointed out to those present in the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse the response of Jesus, who explained that their reward would be great, but not without persecution.

“It’s as if Jesus said, 'Yes, you have left everything and you will receive here on earth many things: but with persecutions!' Like a salad with the oil of persecution: always!”

This, he said, “is what the Christian gains and this is the road for the person who wants to follow Jesus, because it’s the road that He himself trod: He was persecuted!”

Drawing attention to Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians where he says that “Jesus emptied himself and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross,” the pontiff observed that the path of a Christian is “the road of humbling yourself.”

Noting how “this is the reality of Christian life,” Pope Francis continued, warning those in attendance that the Cross is always present when we follow Christ, and that although we will receive brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and a community in the Church, we will also have persecutions.

“This is because the world does not tolerate the divinity of Christ,” the Pope explained, “It doesn’t tolerate the preaching of the Gospel. It does not tolerate the Beatitudes.”

Because of this “we have persecutions: with words, with insults, the things that they said about Christians in the early centuries, the condemnations, imprisonment,” he went on to say, emphasizing that we often “easily forget” that persecution happens today.

“We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labor camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the communists: So many of them! For being Christians!” the pontiff observed, adding that although some might believe that “these things no longer exist,” they “do,” and to a greater extent than in the early Church.

Highlighting how many of our brothers and sisters today are condemned for bearing witness to Jesus, the Pope noted how “They are condemned for having a Bible. They can’t wear a crucifix,” and that “this is the road of Jesus.”

“But it is a joyful road because our Lord never tests us beyond what we can bear,” he expressed, observing how “Christian life is not a commercial advantage, it’s not making a career: It’s simply following Jesus!”

Challenging those present, the pontiff encouraged attendees to think about whether or not “we have within us the desire to be courageous in bearing witness to Jesus.”

“Let’s spare a thought” on this, he said, explaining that “it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted: they cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”

Drawing his reflections to a close, Pope Francis invited those present to think about all the people who are not able to attend Mass because it is forbidden, and encouraged them to ask themselves if they are prepared to carry the Cross of Christ and suffer persecutions, just as Jesus did.


Voices

Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Decision in United States v. Texas

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our nation’s ongoing failure to address the immigration crisis is a humanitarian tragedy. For more than a decade, state and local governments, Congress, the President, the courts — and now the highest court in the land — all have failed in their responsibilities to address this issue. 

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June 25, 2016

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    Los Angeles Foster Care and Adoption Information Meeting, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Children’s Bureau Foster Care & Adoption, 1910 Magnolia Ave., Los Angeles. Discover if you have the ability and resources to help a child in need. To RSVP or for more information, call (800) 730-3933. To request an information packet, go to: www.all4kids.org/program/foster-care.

     

    His Mercy Endures Forever, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Grand Ballroom, Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Presented by The Sower Metanoia. Speakers: Fr. R. Tony Richard from New Orleans; Lay evangelist Jesse Romero; Fr. Ismael Robles; Sower prayer ministry leader Sandra Burroughs, Noel Diaz, founder of El Sembrador. Praise & Worship- The Sower Band. Donation $25/person (Buy 3 tix get a 4th free). Info: (877) 714-5679, Spanish (818) 700-4938. Get tickets at www.sowermetanoia.com.

     

    New Rite of Matrimony Workshop by the Archdiocesan Office for Worship, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., St. Junipero Serra, 5205 Upland Rd., Camarillo. Speakers from the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC). Implementation of the new rite begins Sept. 8, 2016, and is mandated as of Dec. 30, 2016. To register, go to: www.fdlc.org.

     

    How Can This Man Give Us His Flesh to Eat?, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., St Madeleine parish, 931 East Kingsley Ave., Pomona. The many prophecies, antetypes and allusions to the Holy Eucharist and Holy Mass found in the Torah and in the Gospels--along with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. A mini-retreat conducted by Tidings columnist Sean M. Wright. Register at the parish. Info: (909) 629-9495. 

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