Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged Christians to fear sin, not the hostility, violence, or persecution they may face when sharing the Gospel with the world.
“Jesus advises these disciples of yesterday and today who suffer persecution: ‘do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,’” the pope said Sunday from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.
Speaking before the Angelus prayer, he said, “there is no need to be frightened of those who seek to extinguish the evangelising force with arrogance and violence.”
In his catechesis, Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel, with Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to “not be afraid.”
The pope also spoke about the many Christians persecuted around the world even today. “They suffer for the Gospel with love, they are the martyrs of our day,” he said.
But those who persecute “can do nothing against the soul,” he pointed out, emphasizing that no one can take away your union with God.
“The only fear which a disciple should have is to lose this divine gift, this closeness to and friendship with God, to stop living according to the Gospel, thereby experiencing moral death, which is the effect of sin,” he stated.
Pope Francis said in addition to persecution, another tangible situation a disciple of Jesus may find him or herself facing is hostility toward the faith and the Word of God.
Jesus encourages his disciples, he noted, to proclaim the Gospel “from the housetops” to counteract those “who would like to stifle the Word of God by sugar-coating it, by watering it down or by silencing those who proclaim it.”
Francis said spiritual aridity is another trial Christians can face, but “we must not be afraid of it. The Father takes care of us because we are greatly valued in His eyes.”
“What is important is the frankness, the courage of our witness, of our witness of faith: ‘recognising Jesus before others’ and continuing to do good,” he underlined.
After praying the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, the pope addressed fathers on what is celebrated as Father’s Day in some countries, such as Argentina and the United States.
He said: “I assure my closeness and prayer to all fathers. We all know that being a father is not an easy task: therefore, let us pray for them.”
“I remember in a special way also our fathers who continue to protect us from heaven,” he added.
He also greeted young people on the feast day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, “a young man full of love for God and for his neighbour; he died very young, here in Rome, as a result of caring for plague victims.”
“I entrust young people throughout the world to his intercession.”
Pope Francis recalled the coronavirus pandemic and some of its consequences, drawing attention to the plight of refugees, one day after the UN’s commemoration of World Refugee Day.
“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need to ensure the necessary protection for refugees too, in order to guarantee their dignity and safety,” he stated. “I invite you to join me in praying for a renewed and effective commitment, on the part of us all, to the effective protection of every human being, especially those who have been forced to flee as a result of situations of grave danger to them or their families.”
The pandemic has also caused people to reflect on the relationship between man and the environment, he noted. Lockdowns reduced pollution, noise, and traffic.
“Now, with the resumption of activities, we should all be more responsible for looking after the common home,” he said.