The Holy Spirit strengthens us so that we may bear witness to the Lord even through persecution—even to the point of sacrificing our life. But also through the small persecutions like gossip and criticism. That’s what Pope Francis said Monday at the daily Mass at the Santa Marta guesthouse in the Vatican.
As we near Pentecost, the readings increasingly focus on the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that the Lord opened the heart of a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatria who came to hear St. Paul.
“This woman felt something inside her which made her say ‘this is true! And I agree with what this man says, this man who gives witness to Jesus Christ,’” said the pope.
“But who touched the heart of this woman? Who told her: ‘Listen because it is the truth?’” asked the pope.
“It was the Holy Spirit who made this woman feel that Jesus was the Lord; it made her know that salvation was in Paul’s words; it made this woman hear witness. The Spirit gives witness to Jesus. And each time we feel something in our heart that draws us closer to Jesus, it’s the Spirit which is working inside us.”
The Gospel speaks of a dual witness: that of the Spirit which shares Jesus’s witness, and our witness. We are witnesses of the Lord with the strength of the Spirit. Jesus invites the disciples to stand strong because bearing witness also comes with persecution. From “the little persecutions of gossip,” criticisms, to the greater kind of persecution of which “the history of the church is full: that place Christians in prison or make them even give up their lives.”
This, Jesus says, is the cost of Christian witness. In the day’s Gospel we read: ‘They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.’
“The Christian, with the strength of the Spirit,” said the pope, “gives witness to the living Lord, to the risen Lord, to the Lord’s presence in our midst, that the Lord celebrates with us his death, his Resurrection, each time we come to the altar. The Christian too gives witness, aided by the Spirit, in his daily life, through the way in which he acts. It is the continuous witness of the Christian. But many times this witness provokes attacks, provokes persecution.”
“The Holy Spirit which introduced us to Jesus,” continued Pope Francis, “is the same one who urges us to make him known to others, not so much through words, but through living witness.”
“It is good to ask the Holy Spirit to come into our heart, to give witness to Jesus; tell him: Lord, may I not stray from Jesus. Teach me what Jesus taught. Help me remember what Jesus said and did and also, help me to give witness to these things. So that worldliness, the easy things, the things that really come from the father of lies, from the prince of this world, sin, do not lead me away from giving witness.”