Pope Francis’ Angelus – St. Peters’ Square – Vatican City, March 09, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
The Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent presents us every year with an episode about the temptations of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit descended upon him and, after the baptism in the Jordan, drove him to confront Satan openly in the desert for 40 days before beginning his public mission.
The tempter tries to lead Jesus away from the Father’s plan, that is, from the path of sacrifice, of the love that offers itself in expiation. He wants to lead Jesus down an easy road, a road of success and power. In their duel Jesus and Satan fire rounds of Scripture at each other. In fact, Satan, to steer Jesus away from the cross, presents him with false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the possibility of transforming bread into stones; the spectacular and miraclistic (“miracolistico”) style, with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the temple of Jerusalem and being saved by the angels; and finally the shortcut of power and dominion in exchange for worshipping Satan. These are the 3 groups of temptations. We too know them well!
Jesus decisively rejects all of these temptations and reaffirms his unwavering will to follow the path set by the Father, without any compromise with sin or the world’s logic. Note well how Jesus replies. He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the earthly paradise. Jesus knows well that you cannot dialogue with Satan. Satan is quite astute. For this reason Jesus, instead of dialoguing with Satan like Eve did, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and answers with the force of this Word. Let us remember this: in the moment of temptation, in our temptations, we should not argue with Satan, but always defend ourselves with the Word of God! And this will save us. In his replies to Satan, the Lord, using the Word of God, reminds us above all that “not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3); and this gives us strength, it sustains us in the struggle against the worldly mentality that lowers man to the level of basic needs, causing him to lose the hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and his love. Furthermore, Jesus reminds us that “it is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7), because the road of faith also passes through darkness and is helped by patience and persevering expectation. Jesus finally points out that “it is written: ‘The Lord your God you will adore: him alone will you pay worship’” (4:10). In other words, we must detach ourselves from idols, from vain things, and build our life on what is essential.
These words of Jesus will then be concretely validated by his actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead him after 3 years to the final settling of accounts with the “prince of this world” (John 16:11), in the hour of the passion of the cross, and there Jesus will win his definitive victory, the victory of love!
Dear brothers, the time of Lent is the propitious occasion for all of us to take the journey of conversion, taking this page of the Gospel seriously. Let us renew our baptismal promises: let us renounce Satan and all of his works and seductions – because he himself is a seducer – to walk the paths of the Lord and “arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit” (Collect of the first Sunday of Lent, Year A).
(Following the recitation of the Angelus)
During this Lent, let us remember the invitation of Caritas International in its campaign against hunger in the world. I wish everyone that the Lenten journey that has just started bear an abundance of fruits; and I ask you to remember me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia in prayer as we begin a week of retreat. Thank you.
Have a good Sunday and a good lunch! Goodbye!