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End times will bring increased persecution of Christians, Pope preaches

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In a homily that few may have been expecting for daily Mass at the chapel of the St. Martha Residence in the Vatican yesterday, Pope Francis reflected on the end times and his belief that the persecution of Christians will increase in the latter days. The regular Gospel outside of the United States yesterday, where many parishes used readings to celebrate Thanksgiving rather than the ordinary lectionary for the day, the Gospel of the day was Luke 21:20-28. In that passage, Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem to his disciples, and ultimately gives prophetic witness to the end of the world as we know it as part of an eschatological discourse that has been read differently at different times throughout Christian history.

The Holy Father also referred to the companion text so often used when speaking of Christ's apocalyptic sayings, the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 24. "When the Lord refers to this in Matthew's Gospel, he tells us that it will be a desecration of the temple. It will be a profanation of the faith, of the people, it will be an abomination, it will be desolation and abomination."

"What does this mean," the Pontiff asked the congregation,“it will be like the triumph of the prince of this world: the defeat of God. It seems at that final moment of calamity, it seems like he will take over this world, he will master of the world,” the Pope reflected, saying that many believers could become discouraged by the appearance that the Prince of Darkness has triumphed over God, saying that it would be more devastating than some great natural disaster. This Antichrist spirit (cf. 1 John 4:3) is already apparent in the world through the largely accepted idea that religion should be kept "a private thing," and that the public display of religious symbols increasingly seems to be taboo. “You must obey the orders which come from worldly powers. You can do many things, beautiful things, but not adore God. Worship is prohibited. This is at the center of the end of time,” Francis said, reflecting on the mentality of an increasingly secularized culture.

"Once we reach the fullness of this pagan attitude, then yes, he will come…’ truly the Son of Man will come in a cloud with great power and glory,’” preached the Pontiff. "Christians who suffer times of persecution, times of prohibition of worship because of their beliefs, are a prophecy of what will happen to us all.”

Speaking of the prophet Daniel who was thrown into the lion's den in the first reading, the Holy Father said that God asks faithfulness and patience of us, just as he asked it of Daniel. “Fidelity like Daniel, who was faithful to his God and adored God until the end. And patience, because the hairs of our heads will not fall out. The Lord has promised this.” The Pope asked the congregation to reflect for the remainder of the week on what he called "this general apostasy" which in the prophecy of Scripture “is called the prohibition of worship," Pope Francis encouraged the congregation to ask if they truly worshiped the Lord. “Do I adore Jesus Christ, the Lord? Or, a little half and half, do I in some way play game of the prince of this world?”

“Worship until the end with confidence and fidelity: this is the grace we must ask for this week,” the Pontiff closed.

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