Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Church of today is "Church of martyrs", whose throats are cut, who are burnt alive or thrown into the sea "because they are Christians" and also the "hidden martyrs" who are looking for new ways to help brothers and for this are persecuted by "modern Sanhedrins”. These were Pope Francis thoughts today during Mass celebrated at Casa Santa Marta, commenting on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which speaks of the judgment of the Sanhedrin against Stephen and his subsequent stoning.
Stephen's witness, the Pope observed, was such that his detractors "could not resist the wisdom" and the spirit "with which he spoke." Like Jesus, Stephen faces false witnesses and the revolt of the people who brought him to trial. Stephen reminds them how many prophets have been killed for being faithful to God's Word and when "he confesses his vision of Jesus," his persecutors are scandalized, they block their ears not to hear, and then drag him out of the city to stone him".
Drawing inspiration from the First Reading of the Act of the Apostles which tells of the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, the Pope remembered “our brothers whose throats have been slit on the beaches of Libya”, he spoke of “the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was Christian”, he recalled “the migrants who were thrown from their boat into open sea” because, they too, were Christians.
“God’s Word is always rejected by some. God’s Word is inconvenient when you have a stone heart, when you have a pagan heart, because God’s Word asks you to go ahead trying to satisfy your hunger with the bread which Jesus spoke of. In the history of the Revelation many martyrs have been killed for their faith and loyalty towards God’s Word, God’s Truth”.
Pope Francis continued comparing the martyrdom of Stephen to that of Jesus: he too “died with that Christian magnanimity of forgiveness, praying for his enemies’. And those who persecuted the prophets believed they were giving glory to God; they thought they were being true to God’s doctrine. “Today – continued the Pope – I would like to remember that the true history of the Church is that of the Saints and the martyrs,” of so many who were persecuted and killed by those who thought they possessed the ‘truth’- whose heart was corrupted by ‘truth’:
“In these days how many Stephens there are in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya; let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was a Christian; let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians… and of many others. Many others of whom we do not even know and who are suffering in jails because they are Christians… The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness”.The Pope also spoke of the many “hidden martyrs: those men and women who are faithful to the voice of the Spirit and who are searching for new ways and paths to help their brothers better love God”. He said they are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by so many modern ‘Sanhedrins’ who think they are the possessors of truth.
“And also many martyrs hidden to be faithful in their family suffer so much for their faithfulness. Our Church is a Church of martyrs. And now, in our celebration the first martyr comes to us, the first who gave witness and more: He gave salvation to all of us. Let us unite ourselves with Jesus in the Eucharist, and unite ourselves with so many brothers and sisters who suffer martyrdom persecution, slander and death for their faith in the only bread that satisfies, that is, in Jesus”.