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Pope Francis Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake 29.04.20

Pope Francis: Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake 29.04.20

29.04.20  General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace - Catechesis on the Beatitudes        Matthew 5: 10

Pope Francis - Beatitudes - Persecution 29.04.20

Catechesis on the Beatitudes: 9."“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10)

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

With today's audience we conclude the catechesis on the Beatitudes. As we have heard, the last one proclaims the eschatological joy of those persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

This Beatitude proclaims the same happiness as the first: the kingdom of Heaven is given to the persecuted as it is to the poor in spirit. We thus understand that we have arrived at the end of a unified journey that has been unfolded in the previous proclamations.

Poverty of spirit, weeping, meekness, thirst for holiness, mercy, purification of the heart and works of peace can lead to persecution for Christ's sake, but this persecution in the end is a cause of joy and great reward in heaven. The path of the Beatitudes is an Easter journey that leads from a life according to the world to a life according to God, from an existence guided by the flesh – that is, selfishness – to one guided by the Spirit.

The world, with its idols, its compromises and its priorities, cannot approve of this kind of existence. The "structures of sin", often produced by a human mentality, so alien as they are to 'the Spirit of Truth that the world cannot receive' (cf. John 14:17), can only reject poverty or meekness or purity and declare life according to the Gospel as a mistake and a problem, therefore as something to be marginalized. That's how the world thinks: "These are idealists or fanatics". That's what they think.

If the world lives on the basis of money, anyone who proves that life can be fulfilled through giving and renunciation becomes a nuisance to the system of greed. This word "nuisance" is key, because the only Christian witness which is so good for so many people, disturbs those who have a worldly mentality. They take it as a reproach. When holiness appears and the life of God's children emerges, in that beauty there is something uncomfortable that calls for a position to be taken: others either open themselves to the question and open themselves to good or reject that light and harden their hearts, even up to opposition and hardship (cf. Wisdom 2: 14-15). It is curious, it is striking to see how in the persecutions of martyrs, hostility grows until it becomes fierceness. It is enough to look at the persecutions of the last century, of European dictatorships: that they came to the resentment against Christians, against Christian witness and against the heroism of Christians.

But this shows that the drama of persecution is also the place of liberation from subjugation to the success, boasting and compromises of the world. What is rejoiced by those who are rejected by the world because of Christ? They rejoices that they have found something worth more than the whole world. In fact, "what advantage is there for a person to gain the whole world and lose his life?" (Mark 8:36). What advantage is there?

It is painful to remember that, at this time, there are many Christians who are suffering persecution in various parts of the world, and we must hope and pray that their tribulation is stopped as soon as possible. There are many: today's martyrs are more than the martyrs of the first centuries. We express our closeness to these brothers and sisters: we are one body, and these Christians are the bleeding member of the body of Christ that is the Church. 

But we must also be careful not to read this Beatitude in a victimistic, self-pitying way. In fact, the contempt is not always synonymous with persecution: just after Jesus says that Christians are the "salt of the earth", he warns of the danger of "losing its taste", otherwise salt is good for nothing else but to be thrown away and trampled underfoot"(Mt 5: 13). Therefore, there is also a contempt that is our fault when we lose the taste of Christ and the Gospel.

We must be faithful to the humble path of the Beatitudes, because it is what leads to being of Christ and not of the world. It is worth remembering the path of St. Paul: when he thought he was a righteous man he was in fact a persecutor, but when he discovered that he was a persecutor, he became a man of love, who happily faced the sufferings of the persecution he suffered (cf. 1.24).

Exclusion and persecution, if God grants us that grace, make us look like Christ crucified and, by associating us with his passion, are the manifestation of new life. This life is the same as Christ, who for us and for our salvation was "despised and rejected by men" (cf. Is 53:3; Acts 8:30-35). Accepting his Spirit can lead us to have so much love in our hearts that we offer our lives for the world without compromising with its deceptions and accepting its rejection of us. 

Compromises with the world are danger: Christians are always tempted to compromise with the world, with the spirit of the world. This – rejecting compromises and going down the road of Jesus Christ – is the life of the Kingdom of Heaven, the greatest joy, true joy. And then, in persecution there is always the presence of Jesus who accompanies us, the presence of Jesus who consoles us and the strength of the Spirit that helps us to move forward. 

Let us not be discouraged when a life that is consistent with the Gospel attracts people's persecutions: there is the Spirit that sustains us, on this path.