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   17.11.13  Angelus, St Peter's Square    33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C    Luke 21: 5-19 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Lk 21:5-19) is the first part of Jesus’ discourse on
the end times. He delivers it in Jerusalem, close to the Temple, prompted by people discussing the Temple and its beauty. The Temple was very beautiful. Jesus says: “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another” (Lk 21:6). Of course they asked him: When will this happen? What will the signs be? But Jesus moves the focus from these secondary aspects — i.e. when will it be? What will it be like? — to the truly important questions. Firstly, not to let oneself be fooled by false prophets nor to be paralyzed by fear. Secondly, to live this time of expectation as a time of witness and perseverance. We are in this time of waiting, in expectation of the coming of the Lord.

Jesus’ words are perennially relevant, even for us today living in the 21st century too. He repeats to us: “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name” (v. 8). This Christian virtue of understanding is a call to discern where the Lord is, and where the evil spirit is present. Today, too, in fact there are false “saviours” who attempt to replace Jesus: worldly leaders, religious gurus, even sorcerers, people who wish to attract hearts and minds to themselves, especially those of young people. Jesus warns us: “Do not follow them, do not follow them!”.

The Lord also helps us not to be afraid in the face of war, revolution, natural disasters and epidemics. Jesus frees us from fatalism and false apocalyptic visions.

The second aspect challenges us as Christians and as a Church: Jesus predicts that his disciples will have to suffer painful trials and
persecution for his sake. He reassures them, however, saying: “Not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). This reminds us that we are completely in God’s hands! The trials we encounter for our faith and our commitment to the Gospel are occasions to give witness; we must not distance ourselves from the Lord, but instead abandon ourselves even more to him, to the power of his Spirit and his grace.

I am thinking at this moment, let everyone think together. Let us do so together: let us think about our many Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for their faith. There are so many. Perhaps more now than in past centuries. Jesus is with them. We too are united to them with our prayers and our love; we admire their courage and their witness. They are our brothers and sisters who, in many parts of the world, are suffering for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Let us greet them with heartfelt affection.

At the end Jesus makes a promise which is a guarantee of victory: “By your endurance you will gain your lives” (v. 19). There is so much hope in these words! They are a call to hope and patience, to be able to wait for the certain fruits of salvation, trusting in the profound meaning of life and of history: the trials and difficulties are part of the bigger picture; the Lord, the Lord of history, leads all to fulfilment. Despite the turmoil and disasters that upset the world, God’s design of goodness and mercy will be fulfilled! And this is our hope: go forward on this path, in God’s plan which will be fulfilled. This is our hope.

Jesus’ message causes us to reflect on our present time and gives us the strength to face it with courage and hope, with Mary who always accompanies 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.




Pope Francis   23.02.20  Holy Mass, Bari    7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A  Leviticus 19: 1-2, 17-181 Corinthians 3: 16-23,    Matthew 5: 38-48

Pope Francis talks about Love your Enemies 23.02.20

Jesus quotes the ancient law: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Mt 5:38; Ex 21:24). We know what that law meant: when someone takes something from you, you are to take the same thing from him. This law of retaliation was actually a sign of progress, since it prevented excessive retaliation. If someone harms you, then you can repay him or her in the same degree; you cannot do something worse. Ending the matter there, in a fair exchange, was a step forward.

But Jesus goes far beyond this: “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil” (Mt 5:39). But how, Lord? If someone thinks badly of me, if someone hurts me, why can I not repay him with the same currency? “No”, says Jesus. Nonviolence. No act of violence.

We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated. The Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: “You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). In other words: “Live like me, seek the things that I seek”. And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).

If we want to be disciples of Christ, if we want to call ourselves Christians, this is the only way; there is no other. Having been loved by God, we are called to love in return; having been forgiven, we are called to forgive; having been touched by love, we are called to love without waiting for others to love first; having been saved graciously, we are called to seek no benefit from the good we do. You may well say: “But Jesus goes too far! He even says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who they persecute you” (Mt 5:44). Surely he speaks like this to gain people’s attention, but he cannot really mean it”. But he really does. Here Jesus is not speaking in paradoxes or using nice turns of phrase. He is direct and clear. He quotes the ancient law and solemnly tells us: “But I say to you: love your enemies”. His words are deliberate and precise.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference. Pray and love: this is what we must do; and not only with regard to those who love us, not only with regard to our friends or our own people. The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost. Because the measure of Jesus is love without measure. How many times have we neglected that demand, behaving like everyone else! Yet his commandment of love is not simply a challenge; it is the very heart of the Gospel. Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution. The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. This is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.

Love your enemies. We do well today, at Mass and afterwards, to repeat these words to ourselves and apply them to those who treat us badly, who annoy us, whom we find hard to accept, who trouble our serenity. Love your enemies. We also do well to ask ourselves: “What am I really concerned about in this life? About my enemies, or about those who dislike me? Or about loving?” Do not worry about the malice of others. about those who think ill of you. Instead, begin to disarm your heart out of love for Jesus. For those who love God have no enemies in their hearts.

The worship of God is contrary to the culture of hatred. And the culture of hatred is fought by combatting the cult of complaint. How many times do we complain about the things that we lack, about the things that go wrong! Jesus knows about all the things that don’t work. He knows that there is always going to be someone who dislikes us. Or someone who makes our life miserable. All he asks us to do is pray and love. This is the revolution of Jesus, the greatest revolution in history: from hating our enemy to loving our enemy; from the cult of complaint to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the road we are called to take! There is no other.

True enough, you can object: “I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves”. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners. As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: “Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.

The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemanes of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).

Dear brothers and sisters, today Jesus, with his limitless love, raises the bar of our humanity. In the end, we can ask ourselves: “Will we be able to make it?” If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: “Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you”. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved. How often we pray for help and favours for ourselves, yet how seldom do we pray to learn how to love! We need to pray more frequently for the grace to live the essence of the Gospel, to be truly Christian. For “in the evening of life, we will be judged on love” (Saint John of the Cross, Sayings of Light and Love, 57).

Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide. Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity. Then we will be true Christians and our world will be more human.




Pope Francis   27.03.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)    Wisdom 2: 1A, 12-22        John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30
Friday of the 4th Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II
Pope Francis talks about Persecution and the devil 27.03.20

The first Reading is almost an early chronicle of what will happen to Jesus. It's a forward chronicle, it's a prophecy. It sounds like a historical description of what happened next. What do the wicked people say? "Let us beset the just one because he is obnoxious to us and opposes our actions. He reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training . To us he is the censure of our thoughts. Merely to see him is a hardship to us, because his life is not like that of others. In fact, if the Just One is the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hands of his foes." Let us think of what they said to Jesus on the Cross: "If you are the Son of God, come down; He will come to save you." And then, their plan of action: let us test him with revilement and torture to prove his gentleness and try his patience, and condemn him to a shameful death for according to his own words, God will take care of him". It's a prophecy, specifically, of what will happen. And the Jews were trying to kill him, the Gospel says. They even tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

This prophecy is too detailed; the action plan of these evil people is just details on details, it doesn't spare anything, with revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness ... let's create pitfalls, let's trick him, to see if he falls ... This is not a simple hatred, there is no bad action plan – certainly – of one party against another: this is something else. This is fierceness: with the devil behind it, always, with every hardship, trying to destroy and does not spare any means. Let us think of the beginning of the Book of Job, which is prophetic about this: God is satisfied with Job's way of life, and the devil says to him: "Yes, because he has everything, he hasn't been tested! Put him to the test!" And first the devil takes away his possessions, then he takes away his health and Job never, never distances himself from God. But the devil, what does he do: torture. All the time. Behind every hardship is the devil, to destroy God's work. Behind a discussion or friendship, it may be that it is the devil behind something with normal temptations that are very distant. But when there is fierceness, there is no doubt: there is the presence of the devil. And he does it very subtly. Let us think of how the devil has been fierce not only against Jesus, but also in the persecution of Christians; how he sought the most sophisticated means to bring them to apostasy, to move them away from God. This is, as we say in daily speech, this is diabolical: yes; diabolical intelligence.

Some bishops from one of the countries that suffered the dictatorship of an atheist regime came to me, in persecution, with details like this: on the Monday after Easter the teachers had to ask the children: "What did you eat yesterday?", and the children said what it was at lunch. And some said, "Eggs," and those who said "eggs" were then persecuted to see if they were Christians because they ate eggs in that country on Easter Sunday. Up to this point, to see, to spy, where there is a Christian to kill him. This a fierce persecution and this is the devil.

And what do you do at the time of the hardship? Only two things can be done: discussing with these people is not possible because they have their own ideas, fixed ideas, ideas that the devil has sown in their hearts. We heard what their plan of action is. What can be done? What Jesus did: to remain silent. It is striking, when we read in the Gospel that before all these accusations, Jesus was silent about all these things. In the face of the spirit of persecution, only silence, never justification. Never. Jesus spoke, He explained. When He realized that there were no words that were valid, silence. And in silence Jesus underwent His Passion. It is the silence of the just in the face of persecution. And this is also valid for – let's call them so – the little daily hardships, when some of us feel that there is a chatter there, against him, and they say things and then nothing comes out ... shut up. Silence. And to endure and tolerate the fierceness of the chatter. The chatter is also a fierceness, a social arousing: in society, in the neighbourhood, in the workplace, but always against him. It is not as strong a hardship as this, but it is a hardship, to destroy the other because you see that the other disturbs, harasses.

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to fight against the evil spirit, to discuss when we need to discuss; but in the face of the spirit of persecution, to have the courage to remain silent and let others speak. The same in front of these little daily persecutions that is the chatter: let them talk. In silence, before God.