Pope: Temptations Can Be Overcome By Staying Close to Christ
By “learning to build our life not outside of him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the source of true life,” Benedict XVI said, we can do God's work.
Christ’s 40 days in the desert teaches Christians that temptations can be overcome in life if we stay close to Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said Feb. 26.
“Man is never wholly free from the temptation ... but with patience and true humility we become stronger than any enemy,” the Pope said in his Sunday Angelus address, quoting Thomas à Kempis’ famous 15th-century devotional work The Imitation of Christ.
The Pope addressed thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on the First Sunday of Lent, giving a reflection on St. Mark’s Gospel account of Christ’s 40 days in the desert, when he was tempted by Satan.
Pope Benedict, citing his fifth-century predecessor, St. Leo the Great, suggested that Jesus “willingly suffered the attack of the tempter to defend us with his help and to teach us by his example.”
The desert can be a place of “abandonment and loneliness,” where temptation becomes stronger, he said. However, it can also indicate “a place of refuge and shelter, as it was for the people of Israel who escaped from slavery in Egypt.” The desert is a place “where we can experience the presence of God in a special way.”
The patience and humility required to defeat “the enemy” come by following Christ every day and from “learning to build our life not outside of him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the source of true life,” the Pope continued.
In contrast to this is the temptation “to remove God, to order our lives and the world on our own, relying solely on our own abilities.”
This is why in Jesus “God speaks to man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete closeness, full of love,” because God has now become incarnate and “enters the world of man to take sin upon himself, to overcome evil and bring man back into the world of God.”
In return for this “great gift” Jesus asks that each person “repent and believe in the Gospel.”
This request, explained the Pope, is “an invitation to have faith in God and to convert our lives each day to his will, directing all our actions and thoughts towards good.”
Lent is the perfect season to do this, he concluded, as it provides the ideal opportunity to “renew and strengthen our relationship with God” through daily prayer, acts of penance and works of fraternal charity.
The Pope prayed that the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany and protect each pilgrim on his or her Lenten journey. He also asked for prayers for himself and for the Roman Curia as they begin a seven-day Lenten retreat starting Sunday evening.
Pope Benedict XVI’s spiritual exercises for Lent will include contemplative prayer and meditations on spiritual themes like the communion of the Christian with God.
Over seven consecutive days starting Sunday Feb. 26, the Pope and senior members of the Roman Curia will dramatically reduce their usual workload to make time for daily mini-retreats. They undertake the exercises collectively during the seasons of Advent and Lent with the aim of growing closer to Christ.
The titles of each of the seven days of meditations are: “In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”; “Communion and Life”; “Communion and Mercy”; “Breach of communion, sin”; “God is love”; “Poverty , Chastity, Obedience and Prayer: The Holy Spirit”; and “Love and Faith.”
The meditation “God is Love” will explore themes like the death of a priest, penance and reconciliation, fraternal love, and the Virgin Mary as “Mother of Believers” who is “a model of communion with the Father and the Son.”
The Pope’s spiritual exercises will take place in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel. The theme is taken from the New Testament letter 1 John 1:3: “And our fellowship is with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.” This year the exercises will be guided by Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa in the Congo.