BY JUNNO AROCHO ESTEVES
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians have no need to fear in moments of trial and adversity because God's grace is more powerful than evil, Pope Francis said.
Like Jesus' suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christians may sometimes feel alone and think that "God himself has abandoned them," the pope said June 21 before praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.
"At times one feels this spiritual aridness. 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: 'recognizing Jesus before others' and continuing to do good," he said.
While addressing the faithful, the pope also remembered the celebration of Father's Day in many countries around the world and assured all fathers of his "closeness and prayer."
"We all know that being a father is not an easy task," the pope said. "Therefore, let us pray for them. I also remember in a special way our fathers who continue to protect us from heaven."
In his main address, the pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells his disciples to "not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul."
Among the tangible situations Christians may face, he said, was the "hostility of those who would like to stifle the word of God by sugarcoating it, by watering it down or by silencing those who proclaim it."
The physical threat of violence and persecution against Jesus' disciples, the pope continued, is another prophecy made by Jesus that "is fulfilled in every age.
"It is a painful reality, but it attests to the faithfulness of the witnesses," he said. "How many Christians are persecuted even today throughout the world! They suffer for the Gospel with love, they are the martyrs of our day. And we can say with certainty that there are more of them than the martyrs of the early times: so many martyrs, merely for the fact of being Christians."
Nevertheless, Pope Francis added, those who seek to extinguish the Gospel with arrogance and violence "can do nothing against the soul" and one's union with God.
"The only fear that 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," the pope said.