In his Daily Mass homily yesterday on the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, Pope Francis reminded the congregation that the Church grows and is refreshed with the blood of the martyrs who are willing to witness to the faith of Christ with their lives. “The Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom,” Francis said, “it begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood.” Francis pointed out that even though the Church was commemorating the very first martyrs of the Roman Church, there are many more martyrs for the sake of Christianity today than there were in the early Church, when Christians were openly persecuted by the various entities of the Roman state. The Pope reminded the people of the long-held saying that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Pope Francis said that the witness of Christians is necessary for the growth and survival of the Church. “We know that there is no growth without the Spirit: it is He who is Church, it is He who makes the Church grow; it is He who convokes the Church’s community, but the witness of Christians is necessary too...and when historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses.”
Francis further pointed out that there must be no “conditions” placed on someone’s willingness to be a witness for Christ. “In the Gospel reading of the day, one of Jesus’s disciples said that he would follow Him, but only after having buried his father… and the Lord replied: ‘No! Follow me without conditions,’Your witness must be firm,” the Pope said. “You must use the same strong language that Jesus used: ‘Your words must be yes, yes or no, no.’ This is the language of testimony.”
“Let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little Churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us.”
Monday’s Mass marked the last Daily Mass for Pope Francis until the conclusion of the annual “summer break” in the Vatican and in many parts of Italy.