In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis held up persecuted Christians as modern heroes because of their faithfulness to God even in the midst of hardships. They are the ones who follow Jesus on his path of humiliation, Francis said.
The Pope drew inspiration from the Palm Sunday reading of the passion of Jesus, the gospel narrative of the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus that Christians commemorate during Holy Week, which begins today.
There are two roads we can travel in life, the Pope said, the way of Jesus and the way of the world. The way of Jesus means living as He lived, and accepting the humiliation and persecution that Christianity entails, whereas the way of the world is “vanity and pride.”
The Pope said that in this search to live as authentic followers of Jesus we are helped and comforted “by the example of so many men and women who in silence and in secret sacrifice themselves every day in order to serve others: a sick relative, a lonely elderly person, a disabled person or a homeless person.”
“We also think of the humiliation of all those who through their faithfulness to the Gospel are discriminated against and have to pay the price in person,” Francis said.
Earlier this month, a study conducted by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission found a growing conflict over Christians’ rights to act in accordance with their religious beliefs, accompanied by an increasing fear of Christians to admit their beliefs in public.
The commission’s report states that a recurring theme among employees was “the pressure they felt they were under to keep their religion hidden at work and feeling discriminated against when it came to wearing religious symbols or expressing their beliefs. This was particularly felt by Christians.”
The Pope ended Sunday’s address by speaking specifically about the witness of persecuted Christians.
We think particularly, Francis said, “of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted just because they are Christians, the martyrs of today–and there are many.”
They refuse to deny Jesus and “bear insults and offenses with dignity,” he said. These persecuted Christians follow Jesus along his way of the cross, so that “we can truly speak of a cloud of witnesses, of modern martyrs,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome