ROME — The first Christians were not complainers, Pope Francis said Saturday, because “sad people are not Christians.”
“We think of the first Christians, who had everyone against them, who were persecuted and yet they didn’t complain about the world,” the pope told participants in an international conference on evangelization taking place in Rome.
“Reading the New Testament, we see that they were not concerned with defending themselves against an empire that put them to death, but with announcing Jesus, even at the cost of their lives,” he said.
The pontiff also had strong words against defeatism and pessimism, urging his hearers to be joyful in witnessing to Christ.
“So let us not be saddened by the things that are not going well, by fatigues, by misunderstandings, by gossip, no. These are little things in the face of ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,’” he said, quoting Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
“Let us not be infected by the defeatism that sees everything as going badly,” he continued. “This is not the thought of God. Sad people are not Christians.”
“The Christian suffers many times, but does not fall into a profound sadness of the soul. Sadness is not a Christian virtue. Sorrow is,” he proposed.
The pope told his hearers to turn to God in prayer in order to keep their spirits up when they are tempted by discouragement.
“In order not to let ourselves be robbed of the enthusiasm of the Gospel, let us invoke the author, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of joy who keeps the missionary ardor alive, who makes life into a love story with God, who invites us to attract the world only with love, and to discover that we only have life by giving it away,” he said.