At Mass for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Pope Francis canonized 800 Martyrs from the Italian city of Otranto, killed by Turkish invaders in 1480, along with two Latin American religious Foundresses, Mother Laura Montoya e Upegui – the first Colombian saint – and Mother Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, from Mexico.
In his homily, the Holy Father asked us to “look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savour.”
Today, he said, “the Church proposes for our veneration a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel.” The more than 800 Martyrs of Otranto, when faced with the choice of renouncing Christ or death, remained faithful to the Gospel. It is precisely their faith, the Pope said, that gave them the strength to remain faithful. He prayed, “As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.”
Pope Francis then turned to Saint Laura Montoya, “an instrument of evangelization, first as teacher and then as the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples.” He said, “This first saint born on the beautiful Colombian soil, teaches us to be generous together with God, not to live the faith alone - as if we could live our faith in isolation - but to communicate, to radiate the joy of the Gospel by word and witness of life in every place we find ourselves.”
He continued, “The martyrs’ faithfulness even unto death, the proclamation of the Gospel are rooted in the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit and in the witness we must bear to this love in our daily lives.” Saint Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, he said, knew this well. She gave up “a comfortable life to follow the call of Jesus, taught people to love poverty, in order the more to love the poor and the sick.” This, the Pope said, “This is what it means to touch the flesh of Christ. The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this conduct: to be unabashed, unafraid, not loathe to touch the flesh of Christ. Mother Lupita understood what it means ‘to touch the flesh of Christ’.”
Pope Francis said the saints canonized on Sunday offer us “a shining example” of “fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in order to proclaim it in word and deed, bearing witness to God’s love with our love, with our charity toward all.” Their example, he said, challenges us: “Let us take this question with us to consider during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to 'show' my faith with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize when someone is in need, do I see in everyone a brother and a sister to love?”
The Holy Father concluded his homily with a prayer to Mary and to the new saints: “Let us ask that, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the new saints, the Lord might fill our lives with the joy of His love. Amen.”
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