Persecution

Persecution - Pope Francis   


What does “obeying God” mean? Does it mean that we must be like slaves, in bondage? No, the one who obeys God is free, he is not a slave! And how can this be? I obey, I do not follow my own will, how am I free? It seems like a contradiction. It is not a contradiction. In fact, the word “'obey' comes from Latin, it means to listen, to hear others. Obeying God is listening to God, having an open heart to follow the path that God points out to us. Obedience to God is listening to God and it sets us free.

Peter, “in front of these scribes, priests even the high priest, and the Pharisees”, was called “to make a decision”. Peter “heard what the Pharisees and priests said and he listened to what Jesus was saying in his heart: 'what should I do?'. He said: 'I will do what Jesus tells me and not what you want me to do'. And he went ahead like this”.

In our lives we often are proposed things which do not come from Jesus, which do not come from God. It is clear that at times our weaknesses take us down the wrong road. Or even a more dangerous road. We make a pact, a little of God and a little of you. We make this pact and we go forward in life with a double life: a little bit of the life that Jesus tells us about and a little of the life that the world, the forces of the world and many others tell us about. This is a system that's no good. In fact in the book of Revelation, the Lord says: this is not good because you are neither good nor evil. You are lukewarm. I condemn you.

If Peter had said to these priests: 'let's speak like friends and let's find a status vivendi ', perhaps everything would have worked out”. But it would not have been a decision “of love which comes when we listen to Jesus”. It is a decision which has consequences. What happens when we hear Jesus? At times those who make the other proposal get angry and the road finishes with
persecution. In this moment, as I said, we have many brothers and sisters that who obey, hear, listen what Jesus asks them under persecution. We must always remember these brothers and sisters who placed themselves in the fire and they tell us with their lives: 'I want to obey and to follow the path that Jesus tells me.

In today's liturgy “the Church invites us to take Jesus' path” and “not to listen to the world's proposals, the so-so proposals, the half and half proposals”. They are, he said, a way of living “that is not right” and they “wont' make us happy”.

In choosing to obey God and not the world, in giving no way to compromise, the Christian is not alone. Where can we find help in finding the way to listening to Jesus? In the Holy Spirit. We ourselves are witnesses to this. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him. It is the Holy Spirit inside of us who gives us the strength to go forward. The Gospel of John (cf. 3:31-36), proclaimed at the celebration, includes this beautiful passage of assurance: “'He whom God sent utters the words of God, for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit'. Our Father gives us the Spirit without measure to listen to Jesus, to hear Jesus and to follow the path of Jesus”.

Let us ask for the grace of
courage. We will always sin; we are all sinners. But we must have “the courage to say: 'Lord I am a sinner, sometimes I obey mundane things but I want to obey you, I want follow your path”. Let us ask for this grace, to always follow on Jesus' path. And when we do not, let us ask for forgiveness: the Lord forgives us, because he is so good.




Slander is as old as the world and it is already mentioned in the Old Testament. It suffices to think of the episode of Queen Jezabel with the vineyard of Naboth, or that of Susanna with the two judges. When it is impossible to obtain something “in the right way, in a holy way”, people have recourse to slander which destroys. This reminds us, that we are sinners: all of us. We have sinned. But slander is something else. It is a sin but it is also something more, because “it wants to destroy God's work and is spawned by something very nasty: it is spawned by hatred. And the person who generates hatred is Satan”. Falsehood and slander go hand in hand since in order to make headway they need each other. And there is no doubt, wherever there is slander there is Satan, Satan himself.

Psalm 119 [118] : “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. Your testimonies are my delight”. The just man in this case is Stephen, the Proto-Martyr mentioned in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Stephen “gazed at the Lord and obeyed the law”. He was the first in the long series of witnesses of Christ who spangle the history of the Church. Martyrs abound, not only in the past but also in our day. Here in Rome, we have a great many witnesses of martyrs, starting with Peter; but the season of martyrs is not over. We can truly say that today too the Church has more martyrs than she had in the early centuries. Indeed, the Church has so many men and women who are slandered,
persecuted and killed, in hatred of Jesus, in hatred of the faith. Several are killed for “teaching the Catechism”; others, for “wearing the cross”. Calumny finds room in the large number of countries where Christians are persecuted. They are our brothers and sisters, who are suffering today, in this age of martyrs. This must give us food for thought. Persecuted by hatred: it is actually the devil who sows hatred in those who instigate persecution.

The first Latin Antiphon of the Virgin Mary is “ Sub tuum praesidium ”. “Let us pray Our Lady to protect us”, and in times of spiritual turbulence the safest place is beneath Our Lady's mantle”. Indeed, she is the Mother who cares for the Church. And in this season of martyrs, she is, as it were, the protagonist of protection. She is Mother.

Trust in Mary, address to her the prayer that begins with the words “Under your protection”, and remember the ancient icon showing her “covering her people with her mantle: she is Mother”. This is the most useful thing: in this time of “hatred, of spiritual turbulence, the safest possible place is beneath Our Lady's mantle.



These people have perhaps forgotten their mothers' caresses when they were little. These communities do not know how to caress; they know duty, productivity, how to withdraw into apparent observation. Jesus said to them: 'You are like a tomb, a beautiful, white tomb but nothing more'. Let us think today of the Church, so beautiful. This Church that goes forward. Let us think of the many brothers who suffer for this freedom of the Holy Spirit and suffer persecution, now, in many places. But these brothers, in suffering, are full of joy and of the Holy Spirit. These brothers, these open communities, missionaries, pray to Jesus because they know that what he said is true and what we have heard now: 'Whatever you ask of me in my name I will do'. Jesus is the prayer. Closed communities pray to the powers of the earth to help them. And that is not a good path. Let us look to Jesus who send us to evangelize, to proclaim his name with joy, filled with joy. Let's have no fear of the joy of the Holy Spirit. And never, never let us involve ourselves in things that, in the long run, bring us to become closed in ourselves. In this closedness, there is neither the fruit nor the freedom of the Holy Spirit.



Pope Francis   04.05.13  Holy Mass  Santa Marta         John 15: 18-21

So many Christian communities, are persecuted throughout the world. In this time more than in the early times, no? Today, now, this day, this hour. Why? But why does the spirit of the world hate?. Persecution usually comes after a long road. Think, how the prince of the world tried to trick Jesus in the desert, tempting especially his vanity. Jesus never answered this prince with his own words but with the word of God. You cannot dialogue with the prince of the world. Dialogue is necessary between us, necessary for peace. Dialogue is a habit, it is precisely and attitude that we must have among us, to hear one another, to understand one another. It is must always be maintained. Dialogue is born of charity, of love. But with that prince though, you cannot dialogue; you can only answer him with the Word of God who who defends us. The prince of the world, hates us. And what he did with Jesus, he will do with us. With a little word here, a trifle there, he will lead us down a path of injustice. It begins with the little things, “softening us” to the point that “we fall into the trap. Jesus tell us 'I send you like lambs in the midst of wolves'. Be prudent, but simple.”

Jesus is meek and humble of heart. And today, this makes one thing of that hate that the prince of the world has against us, against the followers of Jesus. And let us ponder the weapons that we have to defend ourselves: let us remain lambs forever, because then we will have a shepherd to defend us.




After hearing the Lord's words, Peter asked him: “all right, but us? We have left everything for you. What will be our recompense? What will our reward be?”. Jesus' answer perhaps “is a little ironic: but of course, you too and all who have left house, brothers, sisters, mother, children and lands will receive a hundredfold”. He warns that they will have to face “persecution”, described as the wages, or rather “the disciples’ payment”.

Jesus assures all those who follow him a place among “the family of Christians” and recalls that “we are all brothers and sisters”, but warns that “there will be persecutions,
difficulties”. "Whoever follows me, must take the same route that I took”. It is a way, which leads to humbling oneself and which “ends on the Cross. There will always be difficulties and persecutions that come from the world, for he took this path first. When a Christian does not have difficulties in life and all goes well, something is not right”. One might think that he succumbed to the temptation to follow the spirit of the world instead of Jesus. Let us ask for this grace: to follow Jesus on the path which he has shown to us and taught us. This is beautiful: He never leaves us alone, never. He is always with us.


Pope Francis            01.06.18  Holy Mass Santa Marta       1 Peter 4: 7-13 
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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. …



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The mystery of Christian life is loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. Forgiveness, prayer, and love for those who seek to destroy us is the path Jesus has laid out for us. The challenge of Christian life is asking the Lord for the grace to bless our enemies and to love them..

To pray for those who want to destroy me, my enemies, so that God may bless them: This is truly difficult to understand. We can recall events of the last century, like the poor Russian Christians who, simply for being Christians, were sent to Siberia to die of cold. And they should pray for the executing government that sent them there? How can that be? Yet many did so: they prayed. We think of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Should they pray for the dictator who sought a ‘pure race’ and killed without scruple, even to pray that God should bless him? And yet many did so.”

Jesus’ “difficult logic” is contained in his prayer for those who put him to death on the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive them.

There is an infinite distance between us – we who frequently refuse to forgive even small things – and what the Lord asks of us, which he has exemplified for us: To forgive those who seek to destroy us. It is often very difficult within families, for example, when spouses need to forgive one another after an argument, or when one needs to forgive their mother-in-law. It’s not easy… Rather, [we are invited] to forgive those who are killing us, who want us out of the way… Not only forgive, but even pray that God may watch over them! Even more, to love them. Only Jesus’ word can explain this.

 It is a grace “to understand this Christian mystery and be perfect like the Father, who gives good things to the good and the bad. It would do us well, today, to think of our enemy – I think all of us have one – someone who has hurt us or wants to hurt us. The Mafia’s prayer is: ‘You’ll pay me back.’ The Christian prayer is: ‘Lord, give them your blessing, and teach me to love them.’ Let us think of one enemy, and pray for them. May the Lord to give us the grace to love them.