Pope Francis centered his homily for Monday’s daily Mass on the “scandal of the cross,” saying Christians should turn to the Holy Spirit in preparing for martyrdom – great or small.
“A Christian who does not take the dimension of martyrdom seriously in life does not understand the road that Jesus has indicated,” the Pope said May 11, according to Vatican Radio’s translation.
Addressing the congregation at the Santa Marta residence chapel, Pope Francis said the road indicated by Jesus invites “us to bear witness every day, defending the rights of others; defending our children; mothers and fathers who defend their family; so many sick people who bear witness and suffer for the love of Jesus.”
He encouraged Christians to turn to the Holy Spirit to remind them of Jesus’ words, and guide them in preparing to be witnesses “with small every day martyrdoms, or with a great martyrdom, according to God’s will.”
All Christians are capable of “bearing witness” of the Easter message “without being scandalized,” the Pope said.
According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis recalled in his homily a phone conversation with Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church on Sunday, during which he spoke of the Egyptian Christians recently martyred on the beach.
The pontiff was making reference here to an ISIS video, released last February, which shows the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians.
“Thanks to the strength given them by the Holy Spirit they were not scandalized. They died with the name of Jesus on their lips,” the Pope said.
“This is the strength of the Spirit. The testimony. Martyrdom is the supreme testimony.”
Monday’s homily was centered on the day’s Mass readings, specifically the Gospel of John in which Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit descending:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you will also testify” (John 15:26-27).
The Church is guided along a journey by the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, who serves as our companion, while defending us from “the scandal of the cross.”
The cross is a scandal for the Jews who “ask for signs,” the pontiff observed. On the other hand, for the pagan Greeks “who ask for knowledge and new ideas,” the cross is foolishness.
The Holy Father also spoke of the “scandal of persecution” in reference to those who preach the Gospel.
“They will expel you from the synagogues: in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.”
Pope Francis spoke of those who kill Christians in God’s name. “This is Christ’s cross: ‘They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.’”
“This happened to me – Jesus says – it will happen to you too – the persecutions, the tribulations – but do not be scandalized: the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us understand.”