"How many generous persons suffered and died here in Slovakia for the name of Christ! Theirs was a witness borne out of love of him whom they had long contemplated. To the point that they resembled him even in their death. I think too of our own time, in which there is no lack of opportunities for bearing witness.”
Prešov (AsiaNews) - Giving witness to the cross of Jesus, which is not only "an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status." or "a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living", like those who pay for their fidelity to their faith with martyrdom, those who have done and are doing.
Pope Francis spoke of witness to the faith on the third day of his trip to Slovakia. He is in Prešov not far from the borders with Poland, Hungary and Ukraine and presides over the Byzantine Divine Liturgy (pictured) of St. John Chrysostom.
Here too, as in the neighbouring Ukraine, the communist governments prohibited the faith, dissolved the Greek-Catholic Church in 1950 and handed over the faithful and property to the Orthodox. A Church "reborn" in 1968, which has known persecution and martyrdom, which already has a triad of beatified martyrs and others on the same path, and which in those years celebrated secretly in Latin rite churches.
Francis is in the city linked to the Greek Catholic tradition on the day dedicated to the Exaltation of the Cross. Around the altar more than 30 thousand people welcomed him with overwhelming enthusiasm, waving thousands of little flags (in the photo). There were Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles. There was also Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, former secretary of John Paul II, who used to come to these areas when he went skiing in the nearby Tatra Mountains and who said here, in 1995, "Here the East meets the West".
In front of the cross, Francis says, one is led to see "another of the many injustices, the many bloody sacrifices that do not change history, the latest proof that the course of events in our world does not change: the good are cast aside and the wicked prevail and prosper. In the eyes of the world, the cross represents failure. We too can risk not going beyond this first, superficial gaze; we too can fail to accept the message of the cross, that God saves us by allowing all the evil of our world to be unleashed upon himself. We can fail to accept, except perhaps in words, a weak and crucified God, and prefer instead to dream of a God who is powerful and triumphant. This is a great temptation. How often do we long for a Christianity of winners, a triumphalist Christianity that is important and influential, that receives glory and honour? Yet a Christianity without a cross is a worldly Christianity, and shows itself to be sterile."
" How do we learn to see glory in the cross? Some of the saints teach us that the cross is like a book: in order to know it, we have to open it and read it. It is not enough to buy a book, take a look at it and put it on a shelf in our home. The same is true for the cross: it is painted or carved everywhere in our churches. Crucifixes are found all around us: on necks, in homes, in cars, in pockets. What good is this, unless we stop to look at the crucified Jesus and open our hearts to him, unless we let ourselves be struck by the wounds he bears for our sake, unless our hearts swell with emotion and we weep before the God wounded for love of us. Unless we do that, the cross remains an unread book whose title and author we know, without its having any impact on our lives. Let us not reduce the cross to an object of devotion, much less to a political symbol, to a sign of religious and social status."
"Contemplating the crucified Lord brings us to a second step: bearing witness. If we fix our gaze on Jesus, his face comes to be reflected on our own: his features become ours, the love of Christ wins us over and transforms us. Here I think of the martyrs who in this nation bore witness to the love of Christ in troubled times, when everything counselled silence, taking cover, not professing the faith. Yet they could not – could not – help but testify. How many generous persons suffered and died here in Slovakia for the name of Christ! Theirs was a witness borne out of love of him whom they had long contemplated. To the point that they resembled him even in their death. think too of our own time, in which there is no lack of opportunities for bearing witness. Here, thank God, we do not find those who persecute Christians, as in too many other parts of the world."
"Yet our witness can be weakened by worldliness and mediocrity. The cross demands instead a limpid testimony. For the cross is not a flag to wave, but the pure source of a new way of living. Which? That of the Gospel, that of the Beatitudes. A witness who bears the cross in his or her heart, and not only on his or her neck, views no one as an enemy, but everyone as a brother or sister for whom Jesus gave his life. A witness of the cross does not dwell on the wrongs of the past or keep lamenting the present. Witnesses of the cross do not employ the ways of deception and worldly pretension: they do not want to impose themselves and their own, but to give their lives for others. They seek not their own advantage, in order to be seen as devout: this would be a religion of hypocrisy, not a witness to the crucified Lord. Witnesses of the cross have but one strategy, that of the Master: humble love. They do not look for triumphs here below, because they know that the love of Christ bears fruit in the events of daily life, renewing all things from within, like the seed that falls to the ground, dies and produces much fruit."
"Dear brothers and sisters, you have seen such witnesses. Cherish the memory of those persons who nurtured you and helped you to grow in the faith. Lowly and simple persons who gave their lives in love to the end. These are our heroes, the heroes of everyday existence, and their lives changed history. Witnesses generate other witnesses, because they are givers of life. That is how the faith is spread: not with the worldly power but with the wisdom of the cross; not with structures but with witness. Today the Lord, from the eloquent silence of the cross, is asking all of us, as he is asking you, and you, and you, and me: Do you want to be my witness? Standing with John at Calvary was the Holy Mother of God. No one saw the book of the cross so wide open as she did, and she testified to it with humble love. Through her intercession, let us ask for the grace to turn the eyes of our heart to the crucified Jesus. Then our faith will be able to flower in its fullness; then our witness will bear its full fruit."
The Pope's day includes two other appointments. The meeting with the Roma community in the Luník IX Quarter in Košice and then with young people in the Lokomotiva Stadium in the same city. (FP)