To proclaim the Gospel two virtues are essential: courage and patience [acceptance of suffering]. They [Christians who are suffering] are in the Church of “patience”. They suffer, and there are more martyrs today than there were in the early centuries of the Church. More martyrs! Our own brothers and sisters. They are suffering! They carry their faith even to martyrdom. However martyrdom is never a defeat; martyrdom is the highest degree of the witness we must give. We are on the way to martyrdom, as small martyrs: giving up this, doing that... but we are on the way. And they, poor things, they give their lives, but they do so — as we heard in the situation in Pakistan — for love of Jesus, witnessing to Jesus.
Christians must always have this attitude of meekness, humility, the same attitude that they have, trusting in Jesus and entrusting themselves to Jesus. It should be made clear that very often these conflicts do not have a religious origin; there are frequently other social and political causes, and unfortunately religious affiliation is used like fuel to add to the fire. A Christian must always know how to respond to evil with good, even though it is often difficult.
We try to make these brothers and sisters of ours aware of how deeply united we are with their situation, how conscious we are that they are Christians who have entered into “patience”. When Jesus goes to his Passion, he enters into “patience”. They have done the same: we should tell them so, but we should also tell the Lord.
I put a question to you: do you pray for these brothers and sisters? Do you pray for them? In your daily prayers? Think about it carefully. In our daily prayers let us say to Jesus: “Lord, look at this brother, look at this sister who is suffering so much, suffering atrociously!” They experience the limit, the very limit between life and death. And there are consequences for us: this experience must spur us to promote religious freedom for everyone! Every man and every woman must be free in his or her profession of religion, whatever it may be. Why? Because that man and that woman are children of God.
Pope Francis, Meeting with Ecclesial Communities, Pentecost Vigil
Reflection – This is one final selection from Pope Francis’ wonderful Q&A with the ecclesial communities, and then tomorrow we will move on to something quite different.
But for today: courage and patience! How is your courage today? How is your patience? Willing to suffer a bit for Jesus, are we? This is what we need if we are to preach the Gospel today, says Pope Francis.
But of course the deeper reflection here is on the Christians today who are suffering persecution and even martyrdom for their faith. Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, North Korea, parts of India… the list goes on. In North America and in Europe people may say mean things about us. Archbishop Leonard of Brussels, who has does nothing more than simply and clearly articulate the Church’s sexual moral teachings, regularly gets pies thrown in his face, and recently was attacked by enraged topless women with water guns in the shape of Our Lady.
But he himself is clear that this is not persecution. Persecution is having your church burned down, being thrown in jail, or killed. And this is precisely what is happening to Christians in the countries I list above, and probably a few others I am not aware of. We of the Western world are ‘small martyrs’, as Pope Francis so aptly puts it, on the way, and needing our own store of courage and patience, but we have to be clear about what is happening in the rest of the world.
And we simply must pray for these people, our brothers and sisters in Christ who are literally dying for Him today. Pope Francis puts it very simply, and I don’t have much to add about it. It is a very serious time in the whole world, and the persecution and martyrdom of Christians is very real at this time.
Courage and patience, flowing from real prayer and real faith, real trust in God and a real infusion of grace—this is the need above all needs in our world today. Let us simply pray for one another that we may all bear witness to Christ at whatever cost, love God and love neighbor no matter what that may ask of us.