ROME, Italy– During his morning Mass Monday, Pope Francis once again threw down the gauntlet to the jihadists of ISIS and Boko Haram, applying to them the words of Jesus that those who persecute Christians have never known God.
In the Gospel reading of the day, Jesus offered a prophecy that is eerily similar to what is happening under the Islamic Caliphate in our days, a parallelism that was not lost on Francis.
Jesus says that “the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.”
In his homily at the Santa Marta chapel in the Vatican, the Pope said that today there are some who “kill Christians in the name of God because they think they are infidels.” This, he said, is what it means to share in Christ’s cross. Quoting the words of Jesus, he continued, “They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.”
The Pope recalled that Jesus also prophesied the persecution of Christians, saying that what happened to Him in the form of persecutions and tribulations will happen to them, too. “But do not be scandalized,” Francis said, “the Holy Spirit will guide us and help us understand.”
The Pope also referred to a telephone conversation he had Sunday with the Coptic Pope Tawadros II, who suffered the loss of 21 Coptic Christians slain by ISIS militants in Libya.
I called to mind his faithful, who were slaughtered on the beach because they are Christians. Because of the strength given them by the Holy Spirit, they were not scandalized. They died with the name of Jesus on their lips. This is the power of the Spirit. Witness. Martyrdom is the supreme witness.
According to the Pope, bearing witness to the shedding of blood is for all Christians, not only for those living in lands under the persecution of jihadists.
“A Christian who does not take the dimension of martyrdom seriously in life does not understand the road that Jesus has indicated: a road that invites us to bear witness every day,” he said.
The form may be different, but it is the same witness. For many, it will take the form of “defending the rights of others, defending our children, mothers and fathers who defend their family, so many sick people who bear witness and suffer for the love of Jesus,” he said.
“All of us have the opportunity of carrying forward this life-giving Easter message: bearing witness, without being scandalized,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.