Pope Francis on Sunday urged Christians not to be afraid to proclaim the Gospel message, to expect failure and even persecutions, but to always live in the knowledge that the Lord is on their side.
Speaking to the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, the Pope reflected on the liturgical reading of the day in which Jesus said to his disciples “Fear no one” but instructed them and prepared them to face the trials and persecutions the would suffer.
“Jesus’ mission, he said, did not guarantee the disciples success, nor did it shield them from failure or suffering.”
Likewise, the Pope said, Christians must consider the possibility of rejection and persecution: “this is a bit scary, but it is the truth.”
In fact, he explained, the disciple is called to conform his life to Christ, who was persecuted, rejected and abandoned to die on the cross.
“There is no Christian mission in the name of tranquility, the Pope said, difficulties and tribulations are part and package of evangelization” he said.
The Pope also explained that challenges are occasions in which “to verify the authenticity of our faith and of our relationship with Jesus” always within the knowledge that “God does not abandon his children during the storm”.
“In the difficulties of Christian witness in the world, we are never forgotten, but always assisted by the Father’s thoughtful solicitude” he said.
Pope Francis also pointed out that even in our day persecution against Christians still exists.
“Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who are persecuted and praise the Lord because, in spite of this, they continue to witness their faith with courage and fidelity” he said.
Another test of faith – Francis continued – may even be the absence of hostility and tribulation.
“In addition to being ‘sheep in the midst of wolves’, the Lord also sends us forth as sentinels in the midst of people who do not want to be awakened from a worldly numbness, who ignore the truth of the Gospel message and build their own ephemeral truth” he said.
Hence, Pope Francis concluded, always heed Jesus’ encouragement not to fear those who mock and abuse, or those who ignore or appear to honor the Gospel but in reality go against it.
“Jesus does not leave us alone because we are precious to Him” he said.
After the recitation of the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a landslide in southwestern China, he greeted the Lithuanian people who on Sunday celebrate the Blessed Theofilius Matulonius – the first Soviet-era Blessed of the nation, and he remembered the faithful of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church who mark the 150th anniversary of the canonization of St. Josaphat.