In his homily on Tuesday morning in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis warned that the Cross is always on the road of a Christian, and that there are more Christian martyrs today than during the early days of the Church.
The Pope took as his cue the biblical account of where Peter asked Jesus what the disciples would receive in return for following him.
He said Peter probably thought that following Jesus would be a great commercial activity because Jesus is generous but, as Christ warned, whatever they would gain would always be accompanied by persecutions.
“It’s as if Jesus said: Yes, you have left everything and you will receive here on earth many things, but with persecutions!,” the Pope said. “Like a salad with the oil of persecution: always! This is what the Christian gains and this is the road for the person who wants to follow Jesus, because it’s the road that He himself trod. He was persecuted! It’s the road of humbling yourself. That’s what Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: ‘Jesus emptied himself and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross’. This is the reality of Christian life.”
Pope Francis went on to warn that the Cross is always present on the road of a Christian. “We will have many brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers in the Church, in the Christian community, but we also will have persecutions,” the Pope said.
“This is because the world does not tolerate the divinity of Christ. It doesn’t tolerate the proclamation of the Gospel. It does not tolerate the Beatitudes. And so we have persecutions with words, with insults, the things that they said about Christians in the early centuries, the condemnations, imprisonment.
“But we easily forget,” the Pope continued. “We think of the many Christians, 60 years ago, in the labour camps, in the camps of the Nazis, of the communists: So many of them! For being Christians! And even today. But [people say]: ‘today we are better educated and these things no longer exist’. Yes they do! And I tell you that today there are more martyrs than during the early times of the Church.”
Pope Francis pointed out that there are many brothers and sister nowadays who bear witness to Jesus and are persecuted. Some cannot even carry around a Bible.
“They are condemned for having a Bible,” he said. “They can’t wear a crucifix. And this is the road of Jesus. But it is a joyful road because our Lord never tests us beyond what we can bear.”
The Pope added: “Christian life is not a commercial advantage, it’s not making a career. It’s simply following Jesus! But when we follow, Jesus this happens. Let’s think about if we have within us the desire to be courageous in bearing witness to Jesus. And let’s spare a thought — it will do us good – for the many brothers and sisters who today – today! – cannot pray together because they are persecuted. They cannot have the book of the Gospel or a Bible because they are persecuted.”
“Let’s think,” the Pope continued, “about those brothers who cannot go to Mass because it is forbidden and let’s ask ourselves if we are prepared to carry the Cross and suffer persecutions like Jesus did? It’s good for all of us to think about this,” the Pope concluded.