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My dearest brothers and sisters,
May the love and peace of the risen Lord be upon you all on this joyful Easter day! We especially pray for those suffering from pain either materially or spiritually, and also for our brothers split apart from us in North Korea; may abundant blessings be upon them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross for us; on the third day, he has risen from the dead. Through his death, Jesus Christ opens up the way to true life. His resurrection was made known through the testimony given by the Apostles. The Apostles were ordinary people who were uneducated, timid and weak; they deserted their teacher and ran away when Jesus was arrested and persecuted. After the Apostles met the resurrected Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, they became totally different people. They gave testimony of the resurrection of Christ with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their strength and with all their minds (Luke 10:27). If they had not experienced the living Jesus, they would not have the courage to speak out.
It goes the same for our martyrs—the ‘124 Servants of God’ who will be beatified by Pope Francis. Although some of them were scholars and people with extraordinary abilities, most were from the lowest social class, who were not even treated as human beings. All the martyrs, however, faced their death without fear. At the execution ground, their faces shined with the light of joy. One of the martyrs, Peter Cho Yong-sam (?-1801), was born to a very poor family and people often mocked him for his vulnerable appearance. During his last torture after arrestment, he professed his faith in God and said the following, “There are not two Lords in Heaven, there are not two hearts in a person. What I want to do is to die for the Lord once. I have nothing else to say.” What gave these martyrs such strength to conquer the fear of death? It was the faith in the resurrected Christ and the strong hope that they themselves will also be resurrected like Him.
How can we follow the example of the martyrs? Pope Francis warned us that a heart occupied by the desire to possess is full of this desire to possess things, but empty of God. In the society where people place their security in the goods of this world, we Christians should continue to share and love. We bring to Heaven only that which we have shared with others; and security - definitive security - is in God (Angelus message of Pope Francis, March 2, 2014).
Furthermore, in this world where conflicts and divisions repeatedly occur, we should work hard to make peace by embracing and understanding those who think differently from us. Pope Francis even encouraged us to “love those who are hostile to us, bless those who speak ill of us, and greet with a smile to those who may not deserve it” (Homily of Pope Francis, February 23, 2014). Like what the Apostles and the Korean martyrs did, we should bravely put love into action. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for such courage. Let us live a life of martyrdom and resurrection, in which we put God above all else; we do not fall into the temptation of wealth and honor, we love and share goods to others.
The Holy Father will visit our country this summer. We have decided to name the event “Arise, shine” (Isaiah 60:1), in the hope that the Pope’s visit will become an opportunity to renew our faith. We pray especially for the young people, that this experience of faith may help them grow and one day contribute to the Church and the society.
Another upcoming occasion is the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs. We should put effort in making their stories, and also the stories of the other 103 Saints, more known to the world.
Let us remain in hope that no matter how rough life can be, in the faith of resurrection, we will resurrect with Christ and receive a new eternal life. Therefore, during the Easter Season, we should renew ourselves and have the same attitude as that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5).
Once again, may God’s love and peace be with you all. May the Lord’s peace and mercy be spread upon this world, especially to the North Korean people. We pray to Mary, Mother of peace, and all the Saints of Korea. Amen.
Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung
Archbishop of Seoul