At his daily Mass at Saint Martha House, Pope Francis said the Church lives to announce Christ to the point of martyrdom, following the example of Saint John the Baptist.
“The Church exists to proclaim, to be the voice of a Word, her husband, who is the Word,” he said June 24, the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, who died a martyr.
“The Church exists to proclaim this Word until martyrdom. Martyrdom precisely in the hands of the proud.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and was attended by members of the council as well as employees of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology and the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic Office.
The Bishop of Rome said that John the Baptist “could have made himself important” or announced himself, but rather “he felt himself to be the voice, not the Word. This is John’s secret.”
John the Baptist is held to have never committed a personal sin, and this is “because he never, never took a truth as his own...(he) negated himself so that the Word could come to the fore.”
The faithful should look at John the Baptist as a role model and so proclaim the truth, though not as one’s own, Pope Francis said.
The forerunner of Christ, he said, was not an “ideologue,” and added that “we, as a Church, we can now ask for the grace not to become an ideological Church.”
The Church, he added, must hear the Word of Christ and raise her voice, proclaiming it boldly.
“That is the Church without ideologies, without a life of its own: the Church … which has light from her Bridegroom and diminishes herself so that he may grow"
"This is the model that John offers us today,” the Roman Pontiff stated, to be a Church “always at the service of the Word...that never takes anything for herself.”
“The meaning of John’s life is to indicate another,” he added, and that he “seems to be nothing” and was called to “negate himself.”
He pointed out that John the Baptist's birth is six months before Christ's, when the days are the longest of the year, and when daylight begins to wane.
“John really was the man of light, he brought light, but it was not his own light, it was a reflected light.”
“John is like a moon and when Jesus began to preach, the light of John began to decline, to set,” he affirmed. The prophet was a “voice” though not the Word, and brought “light but not his own.”
Despite his greatness, Pope Francis said, John the Baptist's life ended in the “darkness of a prison” leading up to his martyrdom.
“He was killed, his head was put on a platter, as a great gift from a dancer to an adulteress. I don’t think you can lower yourself much more than this, negate yourself much more. That was the end that John met.”
Noting the saint's plight in prison, including his “doubts” and “anguish,” Pope Francis said, “the figure of John makes me think so much about the Church.”
“His life is one of pain and darkness and he was not even spared this,” he stated.
The Bishop of Rome concluded by praying “for the grace of joy,” asking that the Church be cheered “in her service to the Word, to be the voice of this Word, preach this Word.”
“We ask for the grace, the dignity of John: with no ideas of their own, without a Gospel taken as property, only one Church that indicates the Word, and this even to martyrdom.”