Resisting the seduction of temptation is possible only “when listening to the Word of Jesus.” Despite our weaknesses, the Pope repeated, Christ always gives us “confidence” and opens to us a horizon wider than our limitations.
Temptation manifests itself as a harmless attraction and ends up turning into a cage. Rather than trying to escape, more often we try to minimize the slavery, being deaf to the Word of God. In his homily, Pope Francis reaffirms a truth and a sequence described by St. James in the day’s reading. The truth is that man is tempted not by God, but by his passions. The sequence is produced by the same passions, which, the Apostle says, “conceive and produce sin. And sin, once committed, brings forth death”:
“Where does temptation come from? How does it work in us? The Apostle tells us that it is not from God, but from our passions, our inner weaknesses, from the wounds left in us by original sin: that’s where temptations come from, from these passions. It’s curious… temptation has three characteristics: it grows, is contagious and is justified. It grows: it begins with a tranquil air, and grows … Jesus himself said this when He spoke about the parable of the wheat and the tares. The wheat grew, but so did the weeds sown by the enemy. And the temptation grows: it grows, it grows… And if one does not stop it, it fills everything.”
Further, Pope Francis continued, the temptation “looks for another to keep it company, it is contagious” and “in growing, in being contagious, the temptation closes us in in an environment where you can’t get out easily.” This is the experience of the Apostles related in the Gospel of the day, where the Twelve blame each other under the eyes of the Master for not having brought bread on board the boat. Jesus, the Pope said, perhaps smiling at the quarrel, invites them to watch out for “the leaven of the Pharisees, of Herod.” But the Apostles, who, not listening to Him, continued to argue, were “so closed in on the issue of who was to blame for not having brought the bread, that they did not have space, the time, the light for the Word of God”:
“And so, when we are tempted, we do not hear the Word of God, we don’t hear. We don’t understand. And Jesus had to remind them of the multiplication of the loaves to get them out of that environment, because temptation closes us in, it takes away any ability to see ahead, it closes every horizon, and so leads us to sin. When we are tempted, only the Word of God, the Word of Jesus saves us, hearing that Word that opens the horizon… He is always willing to teach us how to escape from temptation. And Jesus is great because He not only brings us out of temptation, but gives us more confidence.”
This confidence, the Pope says, is “a great strength when we are tempted: the Lord waits for us… trusts us who are so tempted, who are sinners… He always opens horizons.” On the other hand, Pope Francis said, the devil, “ with temptation, closes, closes, closes” and makes an environment similar to the boat of the Apostles. And not to be “imprisoned” by this type of environment, he concluded, is possible only “when listening to the Word of Jesus”:
“Let us ask the Lord, who always — as He did with the disciples, with his patience — when we are tempted, tells us: ‘Stop, don’t worry. Remember what I did with you at that moment, at that time: remember. Lift up your eyes, look at the horizon, do not be closed, do not close in on yourself, go forward.’ And this Word will save us from falling into sin in the moment of temptation.”