Pope Francis at Mass on Thursday morning recalled the many Christians persecuted in the world today, saying Christian witness can be bothersome to those who refuse to listen to the truth.
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on the three traits that are born from Easter joy: obedience, witness, and realism.
The Pope said the 50 days of Easter before Pentecost were a “time of joy” for the Apostles because of Christ’s Resurrection. Theirs was a true joy, he said, but it contained tints of doubt and fear. Only after Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said the Apostles’ joy became courageous, since they now understood the meaning of the Paschal mystery.
Obedience is doing the Will of God
The Sanhedrin had forbid the Apostles to proclaim Jesus, who, refusing to obey men over God, returned to preach in the Temple, despite the threat of prison. Pope Francis said “a life of obedience” is the key to the first reading from the Book of Acts (5:27-33) and the Gospel (John 3:31-36).
Obedience, said Pope Francis, is doing the Will of God, which is the path “opened up for us” by Jesus. The Christian, he said, must obey God.
The Apostles’ second characteristic, Pope Francis said, is “witness”. Their witness annoyed their contemporaries just as Christian witness does today for some. This happens, he said, perhaps because we seek compromise “between the world and ourselves”. But “Christian witness knows no path of compromise”. He said it “is patient when guiding others who don’t think like us or share our faith; it tolerates and accompanies, but never sells the truth.”
“First, obedience, and second, witness, which is such a nuisance to some. There have been so many persecutions since that time. Think about Christians persecuted in Africa and the Middle East. There are more today than in early Christianity: people in prison, killed, and hanged all to witness to Jesus. They are witnesses to the end.”
Realism: Don’t be watered-down Christians
Pope Francis went on to say that the third aspect of Easter joy is realism. He said the Apostles spoke of concrete things and “not of fairytales”. As they had “seen and touched” Jesus, the Pope said, so “each of us has experienced Jesus in our lives”.
“It often happens that sins, compromises, or fears make us forget this first encounter, the one that changed our lives. We carry a memory with us that gets watered down to make us ‘rose-water’ Christians: watered-down and superficial. We must ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit of realism. Jesus has entered into my life and my heart. So has the Holy Spirit. I may have forgotten it, but the grace of the first encounter lives on in me.”
Finally, Pope Francis prayed for the joy that comes with the Holy Spirit’s presence after Easter.
“Let us pray for it for one another: the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit: the joy of Easter obedience, the joy of Easter witness, and the joy of Easter realism.”