Continuing his catechesis on “Christian Hope,” Pope Francis spoke Wednesday on “Hope, Strength of the Martyrs” at his General Audience in St Peter’s Square.
The Holy Father reflected on the words of Jesus: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves… You will be hated by all because of My Name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”
When Jesus sent His disciples on mission, the Pope said, He did not fill them with illusions about easy successes; rather, he warned them that “the proclamation of the Kingdom of God always involves opposition.” Christians love, he said, but they are not always loved; and in a greater or lesser degree, “the confession of faith always takes place in a climate of hostility.”
Because the world is marked by sin, Pope Francis continued, Christians are men and women who are constantly “going against the tide.” This is not because of a polemical or argumentative spirit, he explained, but because of the “Gospel logic,” which is a logic of hope, and which leads to a way of life marked out by the teachings of Jesus.
Christians, then, live their lives filled with love. As “sheep among wolves,” they must be prudent, “and even at times cunning,” according to the Pope. But they must never resort to violence. “To overcome evil, one cannot share the methods of evil.”
“The unique strength of the Christian is the Gospel,” he continued. In times of difficulty, Christians must remember that God is always with them; and God is “stronger than evil, stronger than the mafias, the hidden plots, those who enrich themselves on the backs of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance.” God “always hears the voice of the blood of Abel that cries from the earth.”
And so Christians always find themselves “on the other side” with regard to the world. They find themselves on the side chosen by God: “not persecutors, but persecuted, not arrogant but meek; not ‘sellers of smoke,’ but submissive to the truth; not imposters, but honest men.”
This following of Jesus, the Pope said, was called “martyrdom” by the early Christians, a word that means witness. “The martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to affirm their own ideas; they accept the duty to die solely on account of fidelity to the Gospel.” But even giving up one’s life, he said, echoing Saint Paul, is of no value without charity.
Pope Francis said the strength of the martyrs – of whom there are more in our day then there were in the past – is a sign of the “great hope that animated them: the certain hope that nothing and no one could separate them from the love of God given them in Christ Jesus.”
The Holy Father concluded his catechesis with the prayer that God might “always give us the strength to be His witnesses” and might “grant that we might live Christian hope, above all in the hidden martyrdom of doing our daily duty well and with love.”