VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Holy Spirit strengthens modern martyrs, giving them the force to proclaim their faith in Christ even as they are about to die, Pope Francis said.
But the Holy Spirit also gives strength to every Christian facing even the tiny trials of everyday life, he said May 11 during his morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The pope’s homily centered on a telephone conversation he had May 10 with Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, as well as on Jesus’ promise in the day’s Gospel reading to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen the disciples.
Jesus also tells his followers in the passage that “the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.”
Pope Francis told the small congregation at his Mass that something similar is going on today when some people “kill Christians in the name of God because, according to them, they are nonbelievers.”
Jesus was “talking about the future, of the cross that awaits us and of the Holy Spirit who prepares us to give a Christian witness,” the pope said. But he also is telling them, “This happened to me and will happen to you, too — persecution, tribulations — but please don’t be scandalized. The Spirit will guide you and help you understand.”
The pope said he had spoken by telephone the day before with Pope Tawadros to mark the “day of friendship” between the Coptic Orthodox and Catholic churches.
“I remembered his faithful whose throats were slit on the beach (in Libya in February) because they were Christians,” the pope said. “By the strength the Holy Spirit gave them, these Christians were not scandalized. They died with the name of Jesus on their lips. It was the strength of the Holy Spirit. Witness. It’s true, martyrdom is the supreme witness.”
In a formal message to Pope Tawadros May 10, Pope Francis wrote: “Today more than ever we are united by the ecumenism of blood, which further encourages us on the path toward peace and reconciliation. I assure you and the Christian community in Egypt and throughout the Middle East of my unceasing prayer, and I remember in particular the Coptic faithful recently martyred for their Christian faith. May the Lord welcome them into his kingdom.”
In his homily at the morning Mass, Pope Francis said that besides the supreme sacrifice of one’s life, there is also a “daily martyrdom” of witnessing to one’s faith.
“A Christian who does not take seriously the ‘martyrial’ dimension of life has not understood the path Jesus taught us, the path of the martyrdom of daily life: the martyr’s path of defending the rights of others; the martyr’s path of defending one’s children, of fathers and mothers who defend their families; the martyr’s path of many, many sick people who suffer for love of Jesus,” he said.
“All of us have the ability to carry forward the paschal fruitfulness of this martyr’s path,” the pope said.