Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
"A Martyr Follows the Lord to the End"
H.H. Benedict XVI
August 11, 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today in the liturgy we recall St. Clare of Assisi, founder of the Poor
Clares, a luminous figure of whom I will speak in one of the forthcoming
catecheses. However, this week -- as I already indicated in the Angelus
address last Sunday -- we also commemorate some of the holy martyrs,
both of the first centuries of the Church, such as St. Lawrence, deacon;
St. Pontian, Pope, and St. Hippolytus, priest; as well as of a time
closer to us, such as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein,
patroness of Europe, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. Hence I would like to
speak briefly about martyrdom, the way of total love of God.
On what is martyrdom based? The answer is simple: on the death of Jesus,
in his supreme sacrifice of love, consummated on the cross so that we
could have life (cf. John 10:10). Christ is the suffering servant of
whom the prophet Isaiah speaks (cf. Isaiah 52:13-15), who gave himself
in ransom for many (cf. Matthew 20:28). He exhorts his disciples, each
one of us, to take up our cross every day and follow him on the way of
total love of God and of humanity: "And he who does not take his cross
and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it,
and he who loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39).
It is the logic of the grain of wheat that dies to sprout and bear life
(cf. John 12:24). Jesus himself "is the grain of wheat which came from
God, the divine grain that lets itself fall to the ground, that lets
itself sink, be broken down in death and precisely by so doing
germinates and can thus bear fruit in the immensity of the world"
(Benedict XVI, Visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome [March 14, 2010].
A martyr follows the Lord to the end, freely accepting to die for the
salvation of the world, in a supreme test of faith and love (cf. Lumen
Once again, from whence comes the strength to face martyrdom? From
profound and intimate union with Christ, because martyrdom and the
vocation to martyrdom are not the result of human effort, but the
response to an initiative and a call from God, they are a gift of his
grace, which makes one capable of offering one's life for love of Christ
and of the Church, and thus of the world. If we read the lives of the
martyrs, we are amazed by their serenity and courage when facing
suffering and death: The power of God is manifested fully in weakness,
in the poverty of the one who entrusts himself to him and places his
hope in him alone (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9).
However, it is important to point out that the grace of God does not do
away with or suffocate the liberty of the one facing martyrdom, but on
the contrary, improves and exalts it: The martyr is an extremely free
person, free in the face of power, of the world; a free person, who in
one definitive act gives his whole life to God, and in a supreme act of
faith, of hope and of charity, abandons himself into the hands of his
Creator and Redeemer; sacrifices his own life to be totally associated
to Christ's sacrifice on the cross. In a word, martyrdom is a great act
of love in response to the immense love of God.
Dear brothers and sisters, as I said last Wednesday, we are probably not
called to martyrdom, but none of us is excluded from the divine call to
holiness, to live in a lofty way our Christian existence, and this
implies taking up our daily cross. All of us, especially in our time in
which egoism and individualism seem to prevail, must assume as a first
and fundamental commitment that of growing every day in greater love of
God and of neighbor to transform our lives and thus also to transform
the world. Through the intercession of the saints and the martyrs, let
us ask the Lord to inflame our hearts to be able to love as he has loved
each one of us.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English,
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present today. I especially
welcome the young altar servers from Malta and their families, and I
thank them for their faithful service in Saint Peter's Basilica. I also
greet the pilgrimage groups from Nigeria, Indonesia and the United
States. In this month of August, when the Church commemorates so many
martyrs, let us give thanks for all those who followed Christ to the end
by offering their own lives in union with his sacrifice on the Cross.
May their act of supreme love and surrender to God inspire us on the way
of holiness and charity towards our brothers and sisters. Commending you
and your families to their intercession, I cordially invoke upon you
God's abundant blessings.
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