Pope Francis illustrated the courage needed to spread the Gospel by referring to Coptic Orthodox Christians who were killed by the so-called Islamic State.
On February 15, 2015, Daesh militants released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian construction workers, which they kidnapped in the city of Sirte, Libya.
“Their last words were ‘Jesus, Jesus’. They did not deny their faith, because the Holy Spirit was with them,” he said. He referred to them as ‘modern martyrs.’
Speaking at his weekly General Audience, the pope said that the Holy Spirit gives Christians courage. He illustrated this with sections of the Acts of the Apostles.
He said the Apostles spoke with conviction and with one voice in the face of their accusers, who wanted to imprison them and halt the spread of the Gospel.
The key to their courage, he said, is the Holy Spirit.
“The Apostles become the ‘megaphone’ of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Risen One to spread quickly and unhesitatingly the Word that brings salvation,” he said.
Pope Francis said the Apostles were completely transformed by the Pentecost experience. From previously acting like ‘cowards’, the Holy Spirit empowered them to be fearless witnesses.
“If we have the Holy Spirit within us, we will have the courage to strive forward, to win countless battles – not through our own strength, but through the Holy Spirit who is with us,” he said.
The Holy Father invited the audience to consider empires, dictatorships, and political projects throughout history.
“Every single one crumbled,” he said.
Christianity, he noted, has resisted the test of time, despite scandals and sin.
“God is with us,” he said. “God first saves us, and then them. Our strength is God-with-us.”
Picture: People gather round an icon of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. (Wikimedia Commons)