Pope Francis invites Christian disciples to “have no fear” in the face of hostility, persecution, and even the feeling of being abandoned by God.
In his reflection on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that Jesus’s invitation to the disciples, to have no fear, resonates: Jesus, he said, “persistently exhorts them to ‘have no fear,’ and describes three tangible situations” they would face.
The first is the hostility “of those who would stifle the Word of God, by sugar-coating it or by silencing those who proclaim it.” Jesus encourages the disciples to spread the Word “openly” and “publicly.”
The disciples will also face direct, violent persecution, Jesus warns. “This prophecy is realised in every age,” Pope Francis said, noting the many Christians persecuted throughout the world, even today. “If they suffer for the Gospel and with love, they are the martyrs of our day,” he said. But “there is no need to be frightened of those who seek to extinguish evangelising power with arrogance and violence,” the Pope continued. “The only fear that a disciple should have is to lose the divine gift, to stop living according to the Gospel, thereby acquiring moral death, the effect of sin.”
In God’s hands
Finally, Pope Francis said, sometimes disciples might experience the sensation “that God Himself has abandoned them.” Even in this situation, he said, we should not fear, knowing that “the life of disciples lies firmly in the hands of God, Who loves us and looks after us… The Father takes care of us, because our value is great in His eyes.” The Pope said, “What is important is the frankness of our witness of faith… the condition of salvation, of eternal life with Him in Paradise.”
The Holy Father concluded his reflection with the prayer that “Mary Most Holy, model of trust and abandonment in God in the hour of adversity and danger, [might] help us never to surrender to despair, but rather always to entrust ourselves to Him and to His grace, which is more powerful than evil.”
Pope appeals for care for refugees and for creation
Pope Francis on Sunday asked believers to join him in praying for a renewed and effective commitment to protect refugees and migrants.
Addressing the pilgrims in St. Peters Square after the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope appealed for respect and care for displaced persons recalling that on Saturday the United Nations celebrated World Refugee Day.
“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the need to ensure the necessary protection for refugees, in order to guarantee their dignity and safety” he said.
He invited all believers to join him 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 Pope’s appeal comes as statistics show there are almost 80 million displaced persons across the globe, the highest number ever recorded.
Care for the environment
Pope Francis went on to note that “Another aspect on which the pandemic has made us reflect is the relationship between man and the environment.”
“The lockdown has reduced pollution and revealed once more the beauty of so many places free from traffic and noise,” he said, inviting us to resume activities with a heightened awareness and responsibility in looking after our common home.
Countries across the world are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions as the curve of coronavirus deaths and infections flattens in some continents and regions. The easing of limitations is triggered mainly by the need to kick-start flagging economies and cut down on further unemployment and poverty.
The Pope expressed his appreciation for many “grass roots” initiatives that are emerging in this regard all over the world, and voiced his hope that they may “foster a citizenship that is increasingly aware of this essential common good.”
Remembering Saint Aloysius Gonzaga
The Pope concluded thanking those present for coming to pray with him in the Square from various parts of Italy and, increasingly from other countries.
He said that in his own country, Argentina, this is the Sunday in which Father’s Day is celebrated and assured his prayers for all fathers, noting that it “is not an easy job to be a dad!”
He then expressed his wish to greet young people, in particular, recalling that today we remember Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, “a young man full of love for God and for his neighbour” who died here in Rome as a result of caring for victims of the plague.
Aloysius Gonzaga was a 16th century Jesuit priest who died aged 23 after falling ill while caring for the sick during the plague in Rome. He was named patron of youth by Pope Benedict XVIII in 1792, an action confirmed by Pope Pius XI in 1926.
Vatican News and Christopher Wells – Pope at Angelus: Have no fear, for the Father cares for us
Vatican News – Pope appeals for care for refugees and for creation