October 3, 2015, Saturday — Homily on St. Michael and the Temptations of the Devil

“If we go to the account of the temptations of Jesus, we never find a single word of his own. Jesus does not respond with his own words, he responds with the words of Scripture, all three times.” —Pope Francis, this morning, in a homily to the Vatican police force during Mass in Vatican City

Pope Francis this morning celebrated Mass for the Vatican police force — the police force headed by Domenico Giani, the man with the glasses and bald head who became so visible to people in the United States during the Pope’s trip to America last week, as he so often carried babies from the surrounding crowds to receive a kiss and a blessing from Pope Francis riding in his popemobile.

(Here is a photo showing the Vatican Gendarmes’ Inspector General Domenico Giani acting as Pope Francis’ “Guardian Angel,” just behind and to the right of Pope Francis in the center of the photo.)


This morning’s Mass was in the Chapel of the Governatorato — the palace which houses all of the government offices of the Vatican City State, located in the Vatican Gardens behind St. Peter’s Basilica, and not far from the Domus Santa Marta where Pope Francis lives.

unnamed-1The Patron Saint of the gendarmes is St. Michael the Archangel, whose Feast Day falls on September 29.

The Mass today, though not on the 29th, was in commemoration of that Feast Day, four days ago.

In the context of some of the events of recent days, the homily the Pope delivered was thoughtful, relevant, and perhaps worth reading.

It is in my own translation, from the original Italian.

(Left, an image of St. Michael the Archangel defeating the devil. The original, by Guido Reni, is in the Capuchin church of Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome).

Holy Mass for the Corps of Gendarmes of the State of Vatican City

Homily of the Holy Father

The Press Office of the Holy See

At 7:30 a.m. this morning, in the Chapel of the Governatorato, the Holy Father Francis presided over the Celebration of the Eucharist for the Corps of the Gendarmes of the State of Vatican City, on the occasion of the recent feast day of the patron (of the corps), St. Michael the Archangel (September 29). We publish below the homily the Pope delivered during the Mass.

Homily of the Holy Father

By Pope Francis

The first reading, taken from the book of Revelation, begins with a powerful phrase: “War broke out in heaven.”

(Here is an image of these verses from Revelation.)

And then it says how this war was: it is the final war, the last war, the War of the End.

It is the war between the angels of God led by St. Michael against Satan, that old serpent, the devil.

This is the last (war), and there it all ends, there remains only the eternal peace of the Lord with all his children who have been faithful.

But throughout all of history, this war is fought every day. Every day.

It is fought in the hearts of men and of women, it is fought in the hearts of Christians and non-Christians…

It is a war between good and evil where we must choose what we want, the good or the evil.

But the method of warfare, the methods of war of these two enemies, are totally opposite.

In the opening prayer, in the Collect, we ask for the grace to be defended by the Archangel Michael against the “snares” of the demon, of the devil.

And this is one of the methods of the devil, snares.

He is a sower of snares, never does a seed of life fall from his hands, a seed of unity, always snares, snares: it is his method, to sow snares.

Let us pray to the Lord to protect us from this.

Then another method, another way of making war, we heard in the first reading, the Satan who seduces: he is a seducer, he is one who sows snares and a seducer. He seduces with charm, with devilish charm, he leads you to believe all.

He knows how to sell with this charm, sells well, but he pays badly in the end!

It is his method.

Recall that the first time this gentleman appears in the Gospel, it is a dialogue with Jesus.

Jesus is praying for 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, and the end he is a little tired and hungry.

And he comes, moving slowly like a serpent, and makes those three proposals to Jesus: “If you are God, son of God, there are stones, you’re hungry, change them into bread”; “If you are the Son of God, why so much effort? Come with me to the terrace of the temple and thrown yourself down, and people will see this miracle and effortlessly you will be recognized as the Son of God”; the devil tries to seduce him and, in the end, as he could not seduce him, the last temptation: “Let’s be clear: I will give you all the power of the world, but you give adoration to me. Let’s make an agreement.”

These are the three steps of the method of the ancient serpent, the devil.

First, to have things, in this case bread, riches, the riches that will slowly lead to corruption — and this corruption is not a fairy tale! It is everywhere. There is corruption everywhere: for two cents many people sell their souls, sell their happiness, sell their life, sell everything. It is the first step: money, riches.

Then, when you have money, you feel important. This is the second step: vanity. What the devil said to Jesus: “Let’s go onto the terrace of the temple, throw yourself down, make a great show!”

Living for vanity.

The third step: power, arrogance, pride: “I will give you all the power of the world, you will be the one in charge.”

This happens even to us, always, in the little things: we are too attached to riches, we love it when we are praised, like the peacock.

And many people become ridiculous, many people. Vanity makes you ridiculous.

Or, at the end, when you have power, you feel like God, and this is the great sin.

(Here is an image of the third and final temptation of Jesus. Satan offers Jesus all power in this world, if only Jesus will bow down and worship him. Jesus refuses, points to heaven and, citing Scripture, says God alone is worthy of human worship. Here is the passage from Matthew:”Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me. Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'” (Matthew 4:8-10))

unnamedThis is our struggle, and that’s why today we ask the Lord that, through the intercession of the Archangel Michael, we may be defended from the snares, the charm, the seductions of this ancient serpent called Satan.

You who work, you have a job a little bit difficult, where there are always conflicts and you have to put things in their place and avoid many times thefts or crimes.

Pray much that the Lord, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, may defend you from every temptation, from every temptation of corruption for money, for riches, for vanity and pride.

And the more humble, like Jesus, the more humble is your service, the more fruitful and more useful it will be for all of us.

The humility of Jesus. And how do we see the humility of Jesus — with this I finish so as not to be too long — how do we see Jesus’ humility?

If we go to the account of the temptations of Jesus, we never find a single word of his own.

Jesus does not respond with his own words, he responds with the words of Scripture, all three times.

This is what he teaches us: that we cannot dialogue with the devil, and this helps very much, when temptation comes: “With you, I do not speak — the word of the Lord only.”

May the Lord help us in this daily struggle, but not for us, it is a struggle for service, because you are men and women of service: service to society, service to others, service to increase goodness in the world.

What is the glory of God?

“The glory of God is man alive; but the life of man is the vision of God.” —St. Irenaeus of Lyons, in the territory of France, in his great work Against All Heresies, written c. 180 A.D.

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