Pope: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are called to detach
themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and
others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as
“persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil
salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest,” he
said June 28 during his weekly general audience.

In fact, “Christians find repugnant the idea that
suicide attackers might be called ‘martyrs’ because there is nothing in their
purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God,” who are
called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St.
Peter’s Square.

High temperatures and scattered sprinkles prompted the pope
to tell guests in the Vatican audience hall that he was about to head outside
to a “Turkish bath.”

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series
on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and
perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all “mirages of easy success,”
the pope said, and he warned his disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God
would come at a high price as “you will be hated by all because of my

“Christians love, but they are not always
loved,” the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness,
injustice and hostility, he said, it is “normal” that Christians are
expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by
“poverty,” he said, noting how Jesus talks to his disciples more
about “stripping” themselves than about “getting dressed.”

“Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor,
detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself,
does not resemble Jesus,” he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare
essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned his
disciples that he was sending them “like sheep in the midst of
wolves.” They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never
violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent his people into the world like
himself, as sheep — without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons —
Pope Francis said. In fact, “true defeat” for a Christian is to
succumb to the temptation of responding to the world’s resistance and hatred
with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and
the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst
of times.

Persecution, then, doesn’t contradict the Gospel, it is
part of its very nature, because if the Lord was hated and persecuted, the pope
said, “how can we ever hope that we should be spared this battle?”

Yet, “in the great midst of the maelstrom, Christians
must not lose hope, believing they have been abandoned,” he said.

Christians know that in their midst, there is always a
divine power greater than all evil, “stronger than the Mafia, murky
conspiracies, (stronger) than those who profit off the lives of the desperate,
those who crush others with arrogance,” he said.

On the eve of the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and
Paul and just a few hours before he was to create new cardinals whose red robes
symbolize martyrdom, Pope Francis underlined the real meaning of martyrdom in
his catechesis.

“Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not
fight to assert their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of
fidelity to the Gospel” and with love, which is the highest ideal in
Christian life, he said.

This, the pope said, is the strength that animates and
sustains people facing so much hardship: knowing that “nothing and no one
can separate them from God’s love given to us in Jesus Christ.”

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