Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The martyrdom of Christians is not a thing of the past, today there are "men, women and children who are persecuted, hated, driven from their homes, tortured, massacred" because their lives proclaim a God that others hate. Said Pope Francis at Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta, commenting on the passage of the Gospel of Mark, which recounts the tragic death of John the Baptist.
Pope Francis noted that John the Baptist "never betrayed his vocation", he was "conscious that his duty was only to proclaim" that the Messiah "was close at hand". John the Baptist was aware that he was "only a voice," because "the Word was Someone else" and he "ends his life like the Lord, with martyrdom".
Pope Francis went on to say that when he ends up in prison at the hands of Herod Antipas, "the greatest man born of woman" becomes "small, so very small". Firstly he is struck by a dark night of the soul, when he doubts that Jesus is the One for whom he prepared the way. Then again, when he meets his end, ordered by a king both fascinated and puzzled by John. An end that gave the Pope pause for thought:
"In the end, after this purification, after this ongoing slide into nothingness, this path towards the total annihilation of Jesus, his life ends. That perplexed king becomes capable of making a decision, but not because his heart was converted, but because the wine gave him courage. And so John ends his life under the authority of a mediocre, drunk and corrupt king, at the whim of a dancer and the vindictive hatred of an adulteress. That's how the the Great Man ends his life, the greatest man born of woman".
The Pope said : "When I read this passage I confess I get emotional" and I always think of "two things": "First, I think of our martyrs, the martyrs of our times, men, women, children who are being persecuted, hated, driven out of their homes, tortured, massacred. And this is not a thing of the past: this is happening right now. Our martyrs, who are meeting their end under the authority of corrupt people who hate Jesus Christ. It would do us good to think of our martyrs. Today we remember Paolo Miki but that happened in 1600. Think of our present-day ones! Of 2015 ".
The Pope concluded "this abasement of John the Great, this ongoing slide into nothingness makes me think that all of us are on this road and we are travelling towards the land, where we will all end up. This makes me think of myself: I too will meet my end. We all will. No one can "buy" their life. All of us, willingly or unwillingly, are travelling on the road of the existential annihilation of life, and this, at least to me, makes me pray that this annihilation is as similar as possible to that of Jesus Christ, to his annihilation".