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POPE’S MESSAGE | Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, never with violence

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to detach themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as "persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest," he said June 28 at his weekly general audience.

In fact, "Christians find repugnant the idea that suicide attackers might be called 'martyrs' because there is nothing in their purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God," who are called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all "mirages of easy success," the pope said, and He warned His disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God would come at a high price as "you will be hated by all because of my name."

"Christians love, but they are not always loved," the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, it is "normal" that Christians are expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by "poverty," he said, noting how Jesus talks to His disciples more about "stripping" themselves than about "getting dressed."

"Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself, does not resemble Jesus," he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he added.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned His disciples that He was sending them "like sheep in the midst of wolves." They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent His people into the world like Himself, as sheep — without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons — Pope Francis said. In fact, "true defeat" for a Christian is to succumb to the temptation of responding to the world's resistance and hatred with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst of times. 

Pope: True Christians are guided by God, not horoscopes, crystal balls

VATICAN CITY — The Christian life is a path along which men and women are called to be led by God rather than turning to psychics and horoscopes in the hopes of knowing what lies ahead, Pope Francis said.

Like Jesus, who was stripped of everything and nailed to a cross, Christians are called to "strip" themselves of their securities and follow God's call even though they do not know where it will lead, the pope said June 26 in his homily at morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"A Christian does not have a horoscope to see the future," the pope said. "He doesn't go to a fortune teller with a crystal ball or have his palm read. No, no! He doesn't know where he is going. He is guided."

The pope reflected on the day's first reading (Genesis 12:1-9) in which God calls on Abram to "go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you."

From the Old Testament prophets to the New Testament disciples, following God always implied a call to set off and trust in God's plan rather than remain "settled in too much," the pope said.

"We are men and women who walk toward a promise, toward an encounter, toward something — a land, God says to Abram — that we should receive in inheritance," he said.

Trusting the Lord, he added, means being open "to the Lord's surprises," even those that are unpleasant, such as sickness or the death of a loved one.

Pope Francis said that in following Abram's example, Christians can walk along the path of life praising God and blessing those they encounter along the way.

Christian life, he said, "is just that simple."

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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