Vatican City, Jun 25, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has urged Christians not to be afraid of suffering criticism, economic loss, and persecution for being faithful to what the Church teaches.
“There is a cost to remain faithful to what counts. The cost is going against the tide, freeing oneself from being conditioned by popular opinion, being separated from those who ‘follow the current,’” Pope Francis said on June 25.
In his Sunday Angelus address, the pope underlined how Jesus’ words “do not be afraid” still apply today. He reflected in particular on Jesus’ warning in the Gospel of Matthew: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna” (Mt. 10:28).
Pope Francis said: “It was like saying: You do not need so much to be afraid of suffering misunderstanding and criticism, of losing prestige and economic advantages to remain faithful to the Gospel, but of wasting your existence in the pursuit of trivial things that do not fill life with meaning.”
The pope explained how Jesus told his disciples not to be afraid shortly after telling them about the persecutions that they would have to undergo for the Gospel, something, he noted, that still applies today.
“Since her beginning, in fact, the Church has experienced many persecutions, along with joys—of which there have been many. It seems paradoxical: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is a message of peace and justice, founded on fraternal charity and on forgiveness; and yet it meets with opposition, violence, and persecution,” he said.
“Jesus, however, says not to fear, not because everything will be all right in the world, no, but because we are precious to his Father and nothing that is good will be lost.”
Pope Francis added that Jesus’ warning means that the only true fear one should have is of throwing one’s life away chasing things that do not ultimately matter.
“Even today, in fact, some are ridiculed or discriminated against for not following certain fads, which, however, place second-rate realities at the center – for example, to follow after things instead of people, achievement instead of relationships,” he said.
The pope gave the example of a priest or religious sister who dedicates his or her time to service, while forgetting to dedicate time to being with Jesus, falling into spiritual worldliness, or parents who spend all their time working to provide for their family without spending enough time with their children.
He added that young people can also get so caught up in sports, school, social media, and their cell phones that they focus too much of their time on “passing things.”
“All of this requires some renunciation regarding the idols of efficiency and consumerism. … Think of the least who are often treated like waste products and unwanted objects,” Pope Francis said.
“What matters is not to throw away the greatest good: life. This is the only thing that should frighten us,” he added.
After praying the Angelus prayer in Latin with the crowd gathered below in St. Peter’s Square, the pope gave a shoutout to volunteers with Radio Maria Italy who held up a long banner inviting everyone to place themselves “under the mantle” of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The pope said that he was saddened to learn of the prison riot in the Támara Women’s Penitentiary Center in Honduras earlier this week in which 46 inmates were killed.
“Terrible violence between rival gangs sowed death and suffering,” he said. “I pray for the deceased, I pray for the family members. May the Virgin of Suyapa, Mother of Honduras, help hearts open to reconciliation and make room for fraternal coexistence, even within prisons.”
Pope Francis also marked the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, the 15-year-old girl who went missing in Rome on June 22, 1983, after leaving her home in Vatican City State.
“I would like to use this anniversary to express, once again, my closeness to the family members, especially her mother, and assure them of my prayers. I extend a remembrance to all families who bear the sorrow of a dear one who has disappeared,” he said.