Martyrs

Martyrs - Pope Francis         

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Persecution is rather like the ‘air’ that Christians breathe even today. Because even today there are many martyrs, many people who are persecuted for their love of Christ. There are many countries where Christians have no rights. If you wear a cross, you go to jail. And there are people in jail. There are people condemned to death today simply because they are Christians. The number of people killed is higher than the number of early martyrs. It’s higher! But this doesn’t make news. Television newscasts and newspapers don’t cover these things. Meanwhile Christians are being persecuted.

The Devil is behind every persecution, both of Christians and all human beings. The Devil tries to destroy the presence of Christ in Christians, and the image of God in men and women. He tried doing this from the very beginning, as we read in the Book of Genesis: he tried to destroy that harmony that the Lord created between man and woman, the harmony that comes from being made in the image and likeness of God. And he succeeded. He managed to do it by using deception, seduction…the weapons he uses. He always does this. But there is a powerful ruthlessness against men and women today: otherwise how to explain this growing wave of destruction towards men and women, and all that is human”.

H
unger is an injustice that destroys men and women because they have nothing to eat, even if there is a lot food available in the world. Human exploitation; different forms of slavery; recently I saw a film shot inside a prison where migrants are locked up and tortured to turn them into slaves. This is still happening 70 years after the Declaration of Human Rights. Cultural colonization. This is exactly what the Devil wants, to destroy human dignity – and that is why the Devil is behind all forms of persecution.

Wars can be considered a kind of instrument to destroy people, made in the image of God. But so are the people who make war, who plan war in order to exercise power over others. There are people who promote the arms industry to destroy humanity, to destroy the image of man and woman, physically morally, and culturally… Even if they are not Christians, the Devil persecutes them because they are the image of God. We must not be ingenuous. In the world today, all humans, and not only Christians are being persecuted, because the Father of all persecutions cannot bare that they are the image and likeness of God. So he attacks and destroys that image. It isn’t easy to understand this. We have to pray a lot if we want to understand it. …




Pope Francis    08.02.19      Holy Mass, Santa Marta         Mark 6: 14-29
Pope Francis 08.02.19 at Holy Mass Santa Marta

John knew he had to diminish and annihilate himself to the point of death because Jesus must grow. The forerunner of Christ denied he was the Messiah but showed Jesus to His disciples and gradually faded away until he was extinguished and beheaded in the dark and lonely cell of the prison.

Martyrdom is a service and mystery which entails the very great gift of life. He met a violent end because of human attitudes that lead to taking away the life of a Christian, of an honest person and make him a martyr.
At first, Herod believed John was a prophet, listened to him willingly and protected him to a certain extent but held him in prison. He was undecided because John reproached him for the sin of adultery.

The king heard God’s voice asking him to change his life but he could not because he was
corrupt, and it is very difficult to get out of corruption. Herod could not come out of the tangle as he tried to make diplomatic balances between his adulterous life and many injustices and the awareness of the holiness of the prophet whom he decapitated.
The Gospel says that Herodias
hated John because he spoke clearly. Hatred is “Satan’s breath”, it is very powerful, capable of doing everything excepting loving. The devil’s 'love' is hatred and Herodias had the satanic spirit of hatred that destroys.

The daughter of Herodias was a good dancer and a delight to the diners and Herod who promised the girl everything she asked, just like Satan tempted Jesus in the desert.

Behind these characters there was Satan, who sowed hatred in the woman,
vanity in the girl and corruption in the king.

The precursor of Christ, the greatest man born of a woman, as Jesus described him, ended up alone, in a dark prison cell, the victim of the whim of a vain dancer, the hatred of a diabolical woman and the corruption of a vacillating king. John is a martyr who allowed himself to diminish in order to give way to the Messiah.

John died in the cell, in anonymity, like so many of our martyrs. This is a great witness, of a great man, of a great saint.

Life has value only in giving it, in giving it in love, in truth, in giving it to others, in daily life, in the family.

If someone preserves life for himself, guards it like the king in h
is corruption or the woman with her hatred, or the daughter with her vanity, a little like an adolescent, unknowingly, life dies and withers, becoming useless.

Let us all to think about the 4 characters in the Gospel and  open our hearts so that the Lord may speak to us about this.




Pope Francis     25.09.19  General Audience, St Peter's Square      Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles      Acts 6: 1-15 to  Acts 7: 1- 60   

Pope Francis  25.09.19

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, we continue to follow a journey: the journey of the Gospel in the world. St. Luke, with great realism, shows both the fruitfulness of this journey and the onset of some problems within the Christian community. From the beginning there were always problems. How can we harmonize the differences that coexist within the Christian community without conflict and rifts happening?

The community welcomed not only the Jews, but also the Greeks, that is, people from the diaspora, non-Jews, with their own culture and sensibilities and with another religion. Today, we say "pagans. And these were welcomed. This coexistence leads to fragile and precarious balances; and in the face of difficulties comes the "weed", and what is the worst weed that destroys a community? The weed of the murmur, the weeds of the chatter: the Greeks murmur for the inattention of the community towards their widows.

The Apostles initiate a process of discernment that consists of carefully considering difficulties and seeking solutions together. They find a way out by dividing the various tasks for the serene growth of the entire church body to maintain the harmony between the service of the Word and the care of the poorest members.

The Apostles are increasingly aware that their main vocation is prayer and preaching the Word of God: praying and announcing the Gospel; and resolve the issue by establishing a core of "seven men of good reputation, full of Spirit and wisdom"(Acts 6:3), who, after receiving the imposition of hands, carried out works of charity. These are the deacons that are created for this service. The deacon in the Church is not a second priest , he is something else; he is not for the altar, but for service. He is the guardian of service in the Church. When a deacon likes to go to the altar too much, he's wrong. This is not his way. This harmony between service to the Word and service to charity represents the yeast that makes the church body grow.

In fact St Luke immediately afterwards notes that the word of God was spreading the number of disciples in Jerusalem were greatly multiplying.

And the Apostles create seven deacons, and among the seven "deacons" Stephen and Philip are particularly distinguished . Stephen evangelized with strength and energy, but his word met the most stubborn resistance. Finding no other way to make stop him , what do his opponents do? They choose the worst solution to annihilate a human being: that is, slander and perjury. And we know that slander always kills. This "diabolical cancer", which arises from the desire to destroy a person's reputation, also attacks the rest of the Church's body and severely damages it when, for petty interests or to cover up their own inadequacies, they join together as a group to smear the name of someone.

Led into the Sanhedrin and accused by false witnesses – they had done the same with Jesus and they will do the same with all
martyrs through false witnesses and slander – Stephen proclaimed a re-reading of the sacred history that was centred in Christ, to defend himself. And there is a link that crosses all the history of the Jewish people from Abraham to Jesus. And it's a progression in faith that in Christ reached it's full maturation. The Easter of Jesus who died and rose is the key to the whole history of the covenant. In the face of this overabundance of the divine gift, Stephen courageously denounces the hypocrisy with which the prophets and Christ himself were treated. And remind them of history by saying, "Who of the prophets of your fathers you not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become"(Acts 7:52). He doesn't mince his words, but spoke clearly, he told the truth.

This provoked the violent reaction of those listening to him, and Stephen was condemned to death, condemned to stoning. However he showed his true being as a disciple of Christ. He didn't seek ways to escape, he didn't appeal to the people who could of saved him, but instead he put his life back in the Lord's hands, and Stephen's prayer is beautiful, at that moment: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:59) – and he died as a son of God, forgiving: "Lord, do not hold this sin against them "(Acts 7:60).

These words of Stephen teach us that it is not the beautiful speeches that reveal our identity as children of God, but only the abandonment of one's life into the hands of the Father and forgiveness for those who offend us show us the quality of our faith. Stephen was the first martyr. The other Christ. That is the man whom the Holy Spirit made similar to Jesus. Free from fear, free from the fear of losing himself, but capable of witnessing the love of God right to the end.

Today there are more martyrs than at the beginning of the life of the Church, and martyrs are everywhere. The Church today is rich in martyrs, and is irrigated by their blood which is "the seed of new Christians" (Tertullian, Apologetic,50,13) and ensures the growth and fruitfulness of the People of God. Martyrs are not just holy, but men and women of flesh and blood who, as the Apocalypse says, "have washed their clothing, making them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14). They are the real winners.

Let us also ask the Lord that, looking at the martyrs of the past and present, we can learn to live a full life, welcoming the martyrdom of daily fidelity to the Gospel and conformity to Christ.