ROME — Martyrs and Christians who endure persecution for their faith are the church’s great glory, strength and hope, and they humble those who have so much yet still complain, Pope Francis said.
The heart of the church is made up of “those who suffered and gave their life like Jesus,” who were “stoned, tortured and killed by the sword” in order to remain faithful to Christ, the pope said on January 30 during Mass in the chapel of Domus Sanctae Marthae.
“A church without martyrs, dare I say, is a church without Jesus,” he added.
In his homily, the pope focused on the day’s first reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews (11:32-40), which underlines that faith means trusting in God no matter what happens, even if it brings great personal suffering, hardship and death.
“Martyrs are the ones who carry the church forward, they are the ones who sustain the church,” the pope said.
While big church events that draw a lot of people and are a big success are “beautiful” and powerful, “the greatest strength of the church today is in the small churches, really small, with a few people, persecuted, with their bishop in prison,” he said. “This is our glory and strength today.”
There are more Christian martyrs today than in the first centuries of the church, but “the mass media doesn’t say so because it isn’t newsworthy,” he said.
So many men and women “are blessed because (they are) persecuted, insulted, incarcerated. There are so many in jail just for wearing a cross or for confessing Jesus Christ.”
Their witness “is the glory of the church and our support and also our humiliation — we who have everything, everything seems easy for us and if we lack something, we complain,” the pope said.
“They are our hope,” he added, saying the blood of martyrs is the seed for future Christians.
He asked that everyone reflect on and pray for the many people who suffer martyrdom for their faith and lack the freedom of worship, and he thanked God for being present and giving them the strength to be faithful.