Pope Francis          

1st Sunday of Lent Year A        

Matthew 4: 1-11 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Each year, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent sets before us the narrative of the temptation of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon him after his Baptism in the Jordan, prompts him to confront Satan openly in the desert for 40 days, before beginning his public ministry.

The tempter seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, of the love that offers itself in expiation, to make him take an easier path, one of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan takes place through strong quotations from Sacred Scripture. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, sets before him false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a dramatic and miraculous style, with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and lastly, a shortcut to power and dominion, in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan. These are the three groups of temptations: and we, too, know them well!

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reiterates his firm resolve to follow the path set by the Father, without any kind of compromise with sin or worldly logic. Note well how Jesus responds. He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve had done in the earthly paradise. Jesus is well aware that there can be no dialogue with Satan, for he is cunning. That is why Jesus, instead of engaging in dialogue as Eve had, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of this Word. Let us remember this: at the moment of temptation, of our temptations, there is no arguing with Satan, our defence must always be 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 “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3); and this gives us the strength, sustains us in the struggle against a worldly mind-set that would lower man to the level of his primitive needs, causing him to lose hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and for his love. Furthermore, he recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 7), for the way of faith passes also through darkness and doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Lastly, Jesus recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve’” (v. 10); i.e., we must rid ourselves of idols, of vain things, and build our lives on what is essential.

Jesus’ words will then be borne out in his actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead him after about three years to the final reckoning with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), at the hour of his Passion and Cross, and Jesus will have his final victory, the victory of love!

Dear brothers and sisters, the time of Lent is a propitious occasion for us all to make a journey of conversion, by sincerely allowing ourselves to be confronted with this passage of the Gospel. Let us renew the promises of our Baptism: let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — for he is a seducer — in order to follow the path of God and arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit (cf. Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Anno a). 


Pope Francis          

22.02.15  Angelus, St Peter's Square          

1st Sunday of Lent Year B          

Mark 1: 12-15 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Last Wednesday, with the rite of Ashes, Lent began, and today is the First Sunday of this Liturgical Season which refers to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, after his Baptism in the River Jordan. St Mark writes in today’s Gospel: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (1:12-13). With these simple words the Evangelist describes the trials willingly faced by Jesus before he began his messianic mission. It is a trial from which the Lord leaves victorious and which prepares him to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In these 40 days of solitude, he confronts Satan “body to body”, He unmasks his temptations and conquers him. And through Him, we have all conquered, but we must protect this victory in our daily lives.

The Church reminds us of that mystery at the beginning of Lent, so that it may give us the perspective and the meaning of this Time, which is a time of combat. Lent is a time of combat! A spiritual combat against the spirit of evil (cf. Collective Prayer for Ash Wednesday). And while we cross the Lenten “desert”, we keep our gazed fixed upon Easter, which is the definitive victory of Jesus against the Evil One, against sin and against death. This is the meaning of this First Sunday of Lent: to place ourselves decisively on the path of Jesus, the road that leads to life. To look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus has done and go with Him.

This path of Jesus passes through the desert. The desert is the place where the voice of God and the voice of the tempter can be heard. In the noise, in the confusion, this cannot be done; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead we can go deeper in the desert, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in his Word. For this reason, it is important to know Scripture, because otherwise we do not know how to react to the snares of the Evil One. And here I would like to return to my advice of reading the Gospel every day. Read the Gospel every day! Meditate on it for a little while, for 10 minutes. And also to carry it with you in your pocket or your purse.... But always have the Gospel at hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say ‘no’ to worldliness, to the “idols”, it helps us to make courageous choices in accordance with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with the brothers.

Now let us enter into the desert without fear, because we are not alone: we are with Jesus, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. In fact, as it was for Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit who guides us on the Lenten journey; that same Spirit that descended upon Jesus and that has been given to us in Baptism.

Lent, therefore is an appropriate time that should lead us to be ever more aware of how much the Holy Spirit, received in Baptism, has worked and can work in us. And at the end of the Lenten itinerary, at the Easter Vigil, we can renew with greater awareness the Baptismal covenant and the commitments that flow from it.

May the Blessed Virgin, model of docility to the Spirit, help us to let ourselves be led by Him, who wishes to make each of us a “new creature”.

To her I entrust, in particular, the week of Spiritual Exercises, that will begin this afternoon, and in which I shall participate with my collaborators of the Roman Curia. I ask that you pray for us, that in this “desert” of the Spiritual Exercises, we may listen to the voice of Jesus, and also correct the many defects that we have. And also to confront the temptations that attack us every day. I ask you therefore to accompany us with your prayers.


Pope Francis          

14.02.16   Holy Mass, Study Centre of Ecatepec, Mexico

1st Sunday of Lent year C 

Luke 4: 1-13 

Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, not to let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in a “memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel like beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.

Our Father, He is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father”, not “my father” or “your stepfather”.

God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.

Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies — and we hear in the Gospel how he acted towards Jesus — by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family; a society which is divided and at loggerheads, a society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often — and it pains me to say it — have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.

Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us: There are three temptations of Christ... three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.

First, wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.

The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others...”.

The three temptations of Christ.... Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.

It is worth asking ourselves:

To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?

How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?

To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?

We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one. If we remember what we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not reply to the devil with any of his own words, but rather he the words of God, the words of scripture. Because brothers and sisters, and let us be clear about this, we cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because he will always win. Only the power of God’s word can overcome him. We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil; we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”. Will you repeat it together? Three times: “You are my God and in you I trust”. “Your are my God and in you I trust”.

In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1). 


Pope Francis          

05.03.17 Angelus, St Peter's Square  

1st Sunday of Lent Year A      

Matthew 4: 1-11 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In this First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel introduces us to the journey toward Easter, revealing Jesus as he remains in the desert for 40 days, subjected to the temptations of the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). This episode takes place at a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his Baptism in the River Jordan and prior to his public ministry. He has just received the solemn investiture: the Spirit of God has descended upon him, the heavenly Father has declared him “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17). Jesus is now ready to begin his mission; and as this mission has a declared enemy, namely, Satan, He confronts him straight away, “up close”. The devil plays precisely on the title “Son of God” in order to deter Jesus from the fulfilment of his mission: “If you are the Son of God” (4:3, 6); and proposes that He perform miraculous acts — to be a “magician” — such as transforming stones into bread so as to satiate his hunger, and throwing himself down from the temple wall so as to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by the third: to worship him, the devil, so as to have dominion over the world (cf. v. 9).

Through this three-fold temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation — because he knows that in this way, on this path, evil will be conquered — and to lead Him down the false shortcut to success and glory. But the devil’s poisonous arrows are “blocked” by Jesus with the shield of God’s Word (vv. 4, 10), which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not speak a word of his own: He responds only with the Word of God. Thus the Son, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, comes out of the desert victorious.

During the 40 days of Lent, as Christians we are invited to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and face the spiritual battle with the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our words: they are worthless. The Word of God: this has the strength to defeat Satan. For this reason, it is important to be familiar with the Bible: read it often, meditate on it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective. Someone has asked: what would happen were we to treat the Bible as we treat our mobile phone?; were we to always carry it with us, or at least a small, pocket-sized Gospel, what would happen?; were we to turn back when we forget it: you forget your mobile phone — ‘oh! I don’t have it, I’m going back to look for it’; were we to open it several times a day; were we to read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read telephone messages, what would happen? Clearly the comparison is paradoxical, but it calls for reflection. Indeed, if we had God’s Word always in our heart, no temptation could separate us from God, and no obstacle could divert us from the path of good; we would know how to defeat the daily temptations of the evil that is within us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a life renewed according to the Spirit, welcoming and loving our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and neediest, and also our enemies.

May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in his will, sustain us on the Lenten journey, that we may set ourselves to listen docilely to the Word of God in order to achieve a true conversion of heart.


Pope Francis          

18.02.18  Angelus, St Peter's Square          

1st Sunday of Lent Year B               

Mark 1: 12-15 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel recalls the themes of temptation, conversion and the Good News. Mark the Evangelist writes: “The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (cf. Mk 1:12-13). Jesus goes into the desert to prepare himself for his mission in the world. He does not need conversion, but as a man, he must go through this trial, both for himself, to obey the Father’s will, and for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation. This preparation consists in the battle against the evil spirit, that is, against the devil. For us too, Lent is a time of spiritual “contest”, of spiritual struggle: we are called to confront the Evil One through prayer in order to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life. We know that evil unfortunately is at work in our existence and around us, where there is violence, rejection of the other, closure, war, injustice. All of these are the work of the Evil One, of evil.

Immediately following the temptations in the desert, Jesus begins to preach the Gospel, that is, the Good News, the second word. The first was “temptation”, the second, “Good News”. And this Good News demands man’s conversion — the third word — and faith. He proclaims: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand”; and then he cautions, “repent, and believe in the gospel” (v. 15), that is, believe in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our lives, we always need to convert — every day! —, and the Church invites us to pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently orientated towards God and we must continually direct our minds and our hearts towards him. In order to do this, we need to have the courage to reject all that takes us off course, the false values which deceive us, by subtly flattering our ego. Rather, we must entrust ourselves to the Lord, to his goodness and to his project of love for each of us. Lent is a time of repentance, yes, but it is not a time of sorrow! It is a time of penance, but it is not a time of sorrow, of mourning. It is a joyous and serious commitment to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our “old man”, and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism.

Only God can give us true happiness: it is useless to waste our time seeking it elsewhere, in wealth, in pleasure, in power, in a career.... The Kingdom of God is the realization of all our aspirations because at the same time, it is the salvation of mankind and the glory of God. On this first Sunday of Lent, we are invited to listen carefully and to hear Jesus’ appeal to convert, and to believe in the Gospel. We are exhorted to begin the journey towards Easter with commitment, to embrace evermore the grace of God who wishes to transform the world into a kingdom of justice, peace and fraternity.

May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lenten Season with fidelity to the Word of God and with unceasing prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living each day with the desire to embrace the love that comes from God and which seeks to transform our life and the entire world. 


Pope Francis       

1st Sunday Lent Year C   

Luke 4: 1-13 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

The Gospel passage for this first Sunday of Lent (cf. Lk 4:1-13) recounts the experience of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. After fasting for 40 days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. First he invites Him to change stone into bread (v. 3); then, from above, he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious messiah (vv. 5-6); lastly he takes Him to the pinnacle of the temple of Jerusalem and invites Him to throw himself down, so as to manifest His divine power in a spectacular way (vv. 9-11). The three temptations point to three paths that the world always offers, promising great success, three paths to mislead us: greed for possession — to have, have, have —, human vainglory and the exploitation of God. These are three paths that will lead us to ruin.

The first, the path of greed for possession. This is always the devil’s insidious logic He begins from the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, happiness, in order to encourage us to believe that all this is possible without God, or rather, even despite Him. But Jesus countervails, stating: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’’’ (v. 4). Recalling the long journey of the chosen people through the desert, Jesus affirms his desire to fully entrust himself to the providence of the Father, who always takes care of his children.

The second temptation: the path of human vainglory. The devil says: “If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours” (v. 7). One can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of money,      success and power, in order to achieve one’s own self-affirmation. And one tastes the euphoria of a fleeting joy. And this also leads us to be ‘peacocks’, to vanity, but this vanishes. For this reason Jesus responds: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (v. 8).

And then the third temptation: exploiting God to one’s own advantage. In response to the devil — who, citing Scripture, invites Him to seek a conspicuous miracle from God — Jesus again opposes with the firm decision to remain humble, to remain confident before the Father: “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 12). Thus, he rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: that of wanting to ‘pull God to our side’, asking him for graces which in reality serve and will serve to satisfy our pride.

These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion that in this way one can obtain success and happiness. But in reality, they are completely extraneous to God’s mode of action; rather, in fact they distance us from God, because they are the works of Satan. Jesus, personally facing these trials, overcomes temptation three times in order to fully adhere to the Father’s plan. And he reveals the remedies to us: interior life, faith in God, the certainty of his love — the certainty that God loves us, that he is Father, and with this certainty we will overcome every temptation.

But there is one thing to which I would like to draw your attention, something interesting. In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter a discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God. This teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God.

Therefore, let us benefit from Lent as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to feel God’s comforting presence in our life.

May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, icon of faithfulness to God, sustain us in our journey, helping us to always reject evil and welcome good.


Pope Francis       

01.05.19   General Audience, St Peter's Square, Rome

Catechesis on the Our Father, - General Audience 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We continue the catechesis on the "our father", we now consider the penultimate invocation: "Lead us not into temptation" (Mt 6.13). Another version says: "Let's not fall into temptation." The "our father" begins in a way that makes us want serenity: God's plan we can make in our midst. Then looks at life, and makes us ask what we need in every day: the "daily bread". Then prayer is addressed to our interpersonal relationships, often polluted by selfishness: we ask forgiveness and we promise to give it. But it's in this penultimate invocation that our dialogue with our heavenly father comes, so to speak, to the heart of the drama, namely the battle between our freedom and the snares of the evil one.

As is known, the original Greek expression contained in the Gospels is hard to understand exactly, and all modern translations are a bit lame. One thing we can agree unanimously:  God does not seek to put temptations in our way. As if God was lurking to tighten the snares and make pitfalls for His children. Such an interpretation is defeated by the text itself, and it is far from the image of God that Jesus revealed to us. Let us not forget: the "our father" begins with "a parent". And a father does not trap his children. Christians do not have to deal with a jealous God, competing with men, or one who likes to put them to the test. These are pictures of many pagan gods. We read in the letter of James the Apostle: "No one, experiencing temptation should say," I am being tempted by God "; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he does not tempt anyone "(1.13). Quite the contrary: the father is not the author of evil, no child asking for a fish is given a snake (cf. Lk 11.11) – as Jesus teaches – and when evil faces us in life, He fights alongside us, that we may be released. A God who always fights for us, not against us. Is the father! It is in this sense that we pray the "our father." 

Both trial and temptation were mysteriously present in the life of Jesus himself. This experience makes the son of God completely our brother.  God has not left us alone, but in Jesus he manifests himself as the "God-with-us" up to the extreme. He is with us when he gives us life, is with us during life, is with us in joy, is with us in trials, is with us in sadness, is with us in defeat, when we sin, but always is with us because he is the father and cannot leave us.

If we are tempted to do evil, denying the fraternity with others and wanting absolute power over everything and everyone, Jesus has already fought this temptation for us: clear evidence is given in the first pages of the Gospel. Soon after receiving his baptism from John, in a crowd of sinners, Jesus retreats to the wilderness and is tempted by Satan. Thus begins the public life of Jesus, with the temptation that comes from Satan. Satan was present. Many people say: "but why talk of the devil which is something old? The devil does not exist ". But look what it teaches you in the Gospel: Jesus has dealt with the devil, was tempted by Satan. But Jesus dismisses every temptation and emerges victorious. The Gospel of Matthew has an interesting note ending the duel between Jesus and the enemy: "then the devil left him, and behold, Angels came and served him" (4.11).

But even in the time of Supreme trial God does not leave us alone. When Jesus withdraws to pray at Gethsemane, his heart is flooded with an unspeakable distress – as he said to his disciples – and he experiences loneliness and abandonment. Alone, with responsibility for all the sins of the world on his shoulders; alone with an unspeakable distress. The evidence is so heart-breaking that something unexpected happens. Jesus never begs for love for himself, that night feeling his soul sorrowful, even to death, and then asks for the closeness of his friends: "remain here, and watch with me!" (Mt 26.38). As we know, the disciples, weighed down by a stupor caused by fear, fell asleep. In times of agony, God asks man not to abandon him, and man instead sleeps. At times when man is on trial, God watches. In the worst moments of our lives, in most suffering moments, in the most distressing moments, God watches with us, God struggles with us, he is always close to us. Why? Because He is our Father. So we begin the prayer: "our father". And a father never abandons his children. That night Jesus ' pain, of struggle is the final seal of the incarnation: God comes down to visit us in our depths and in the difficulties that punctuate history.

It is our comfort in times of trial: to know that that valley, since Jesus has crossed it, is no longer desolate, but is blessed by the presence of the son of God. He will never abandon us!

Therefore, God, keep away from us the time of trial and temptation. But when this time comes to us, our Father, shows us that we are not alone. For Christ has already taken upon himself the weight of our cross, calling us to carry it with him and to entrust ourselves to the Father's faithful love. Thank you.


Pope Francis       

01.03.20  Angelus, St Peter's Square       

1st Sunday of Lent Year A        

Matthew 4: 1-11   

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel (cf. Mt 4:1-11) recounts that Jesus, after having been baptised in the Jordan River, "was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil" (v. 1). He is preparing to begin his mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and, just as Moses and Elijah did (cf. Es 24:18; 1 King 19:8), in the Old Testament, He does so with a forty-day fast. This is the beginning of Lent. 

At the end of this period of fasting, the tempter, the devil, breaks in, and three times tries to put Jesus to the test. The first temptation arises by the fact that Jesus is hungry; and so the devil suggests to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread" (v. 3). A challenge. But Jesus' answer is clear: "It is written: "One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God" (4:4). He recalls Moses, when he reminded the people of the long journey they had made in the desert, through which he learned that his life depended on the Word of God (cf. Dt 8:3).

Then the devil makes a second attempt, (cf. vv. 5-6) he gets more cunning, this time he quotes the Sacred Scripture. The strategy is clear: if you have so much confidence in the power of God, then try it, in fact Scripture itself confirms that you will be aided by angels (cf. v. 6). But even in this case Jesus does not allow himself to be confounded, because those who believe know that one does not put God to the test, instead he trusts Gods goodness. Therefore, to the words of the Bible, which Satan has interpreted for his own purposes, Jesus responds with another quote: "Again it is written: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (v. 7).

Finally, the third attempt (cf. 8-9) reveals the true reasoning of the devil: since the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven marks the beginning of his own defeat, the evil one would like to divert Jesus from fulfilling His mission, by presenting Him as a political Messiah. But Jesus rejects the idolatry of human power and glory and, in the end, drives out the tempter by saying to him: "Be gone, Satan! It is written: "The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve" (v. 10). And at this point, the angels approach to serve Jesus, who is faithful in handing Himself over to the Father (cf. v. 11). 

This teaches us one thing: Jesus does not dialogue with the devil. Jesus responds to the devil with the Word of God, not by His own words. In temptation, we often begin to dialogue with temptation, to dialogue with the devil: "Yes, but I may do this..., then I confess, then this, that one...". Never dialogue with the devil. Jesus says only two things to the devil: he drives him away or, as in this case, responds with the Word of God. Be careful: never dialogue with temptation, never dialogue with the devil.

Even today Satan breaks into people's lives to tempt them with his tempting proposals; he mixes his voice with the many other voices that try to tame our conscience. Messages come at us from many places inviting us to "let ourselves be tempted" to experience the intoxication of the transgression. The experience of Jesus teaches us that temptation is an attempt to follow alternative paths to God's: "But, do this, there is no problem, then God forgives! But a day of joy take it..." – "But it is a sin!" – "No, it is nothing like this". This is an alternative route to God's path, and these give us the sense of being self-sufficient, of the enjoyment of life as an end to itself. But all this is illusory: we soon realize that the more we distance ourselves from God, the more defenceless and helpless we feel in the face of the great problems of existence. 

May the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Him who crushed the head of the serpent, helps us in this time of Lent to be vigilant in the face of temptations, not to submit to any idol of this world, to follow Jesus in the fight against evil; and we will also succeed as Jesus.


Pope Francis       

04.04.20  Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)  

Saturday of the 5th Week of Lent - Lectionary Cycle II 

John 11: 45-56   

It has been a while that the doctors of the law and even the high priests, were restless because strange things were happening in their country. First this John, who eventually they left alone because he was a prophet, he baptized there and the people went but there were no other consequences. Then came this Jesus, pointed out by John. He began to do signs, and miracles, but above all to speak to the people and people understood, and people followed him, and he did not always observe the law and this was so disturbing. "This is a revolutionary, a peaceful revolutionary... Who attracted people to himself, and people followed him..." (cf. John. 11:45-48). And these ideas led them to talk to each other: "But look, I don't like this... that other...", and so among them these were the topics of their conversation, of their concern as well. 

Then some went to him to test him, and always the Lord had a clear response for them, which had not come to the mind of the doctors of the law. Let us think of that woman who was married seven times, widowed seven times: "But in heaven, which of these husbands will be she be married to?" (cf. Luke.20:33). He answered clearly and they went away a little bit embarrassed at the wisdom of Jesus and other times they left humiliated, as when they wanted to stone that adulterous woman and Jesus said at the end: "The one among you without sin, let him throw the first stone" (cf. John.8:7) and the Gospel says that they went away, starting with the elders, humiliated at that moment. This grew these conversations between them: "We have to do something, this is wrong...". 

Then they sent the soldiers to arrest him up and they came back saying, "We couldn't arrest him because no one else speaks like this man " ... "You too, have you allowed yourself to be deceived" (cf. John.7:45-49: And they become angry because not even the soldiers could arrest him. And then, after the resurrection of Lazarus - the reading that we heard today comes after that - many Jews went there to see the sisters of Lazarus, but some went to see what had happened in order to report back, and some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done." John. 11:45). Others believed in Him. And those gossipers who go here and there, they chatterer of all the time, who live gossiping ... they went to report him. 

At this time, that group that had formed among the doctors of the law had a formal meeting: "This is very dangerous we have to make a decision. What do we do? This man makes many signs - they recognize the miracles - If we let him continue like this, everyone will believe in him, there is danger, the people will follow him, they will break away from us" - the people were not attached to them - "The Romans will come and destroy our land and our nation" (cf. John.11.48). In this there was part of the truth but not the whole truth, it was a justification, because they had found equilibrium with their occupiers, but they hated the Roman occupiers, but politically they had found a balance. So they talked to each other. One of them, Caiaphas - he was the most radical -, was a high priest (he said): "Don't you consider that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, so that the whole nation may not perish!" (John:11.50). He was the high priest and he makes the proposal: "Let's take him out." And John says: "But he did not say this for himself, but, being a high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation. From that day they planned to kill him. John.11:51-53). 

It was a trial, a process that began with little anxieties in the time of John the Baptist and then ended in this session of the doctors of the law and high priests. A process that grew, a process that they became more secure in the decision they had to make, but no one had said it precisely and clearly: "This person must be cast out." 

This way the doctors of the law proceeded is precisely a model of how temptation works in us, because behind this truly was the devil who wanted to destroy Jesus and the temptation in us generally acts like this: it begins with a little thing, with a desire, an idea, it grows, infects others and in the end justifies itself. 

These are the three steps of the temptation of the devil in us and it is the three steps that the devil worked in the temptation of the doctors of the law. It began little, but it grew, and it grew, until it infected others, and in the end they justify themselves: "It is necessary for one to die for the people" (cf. John.11.50), the total justification. And they all went home calmly. They said, "This is the decision we had to make." And all of us, when we are overcome by temptation, end up calm, because we have found a justification for this sin, for this sinful attitude, for this action not according to God's law. 

We should have a habit of identifying this process of temptation in us. This process that makes us change our hearts from good to evil, that takes us on the road downhill. One thing that grows, grows, grows slowly, then infects others and eventually justifies itself. It is rare that temptations to us come all at once, the devil is cunning. And he knows how to take this path, he took it to come to the condemnation of Jesus. 

When we find ourselves in a sin, that we have fallen, yes, we must go and ask forgiveness from the Lord, it is the first (step) that we must do, but then we need to understand: "How did I come to fall there? How did this process begin in my soul? How did it grow stronger? Who else did I infect? And how did I finally justify myself falling?" 

The life of Jesus is always an example to us and the things that have happened to Jesus are things that will happen to us, temptations, justifications, good people who are around us and perhaps we do not listen to them and we surround ourselves with bad people in the moment of temptation in order for the temptation to get stronger. But let us never forget: always, behind a sin, behind a fall, there is a temptation that began small, that grew, that infected others and in the end I find a justification for sin. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us with this inner knowledge.


Pope Francis       

21.02.21  Angelus, St Peter's Square          

1st Sunday of Lent Year B           

Mark 1: 12-15 

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Last Wednesday, with the penitential rite of the ashes, we began our Lenten journey. Today, the first Sunday of this liturgical season, the Word of God shows us the path to living fruitfully the forty days that lead to the annual celebration of Easter. It is the way Jesus trod, which the Gospel, with Mark’s essential style, summarises by saying that before He began His preaching, He withdrew into the desert for forty days, where He was tempted by Satan (see 1:12-15). The Evangelist emphasises that “the Spirit - the Holy Spirit - immediately drove Him out into the wilderness” (v. 12). The Holy Spirit descended upon Him immediately after the baptism He received from John in the River Jordan; the same Spirit now impels Him to go into the desert, to face the Tempter, to combat the devil. Jesus' entire existence is placed under the sign of the Spirit of God, who animates, inspires and guides Him.

But let us think of the desert. Let us pause for a moment on this natural and symbolic environment, so important in the Bible. The desert is the place where God speaks to the heart of the human person, and where prayer is the answer, that is, the desert of solitude, the heart detached from other things, and which only in that solitude opens itself to the Word of God. But it is also the place of trial and temptation, where the Tempter, taking advantage of human frailty and needs, insinuates his lying voice, as an alternative to God’s, an alternative voice that makes you see another road, another road of deception. The Tempter seduces. Indeed, during the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, the “duel” between Jesus and the devil begins, which will end with the Passion and the Cross. Christ’s entire ministry is a struggle against the Evil One in its many manifestations: healing from illnesses, exorcising the possessed, forgiving sins. It is a struggle. After the first phase in which Jesus demonstrates that He speaks and acts with the power of God, it seems that the devil has the upper hand, when the Son of God is rejected, abandoned and finally captured and condemned to death. It looks like the winner is the devil. In reality, death was the last “desert” to cross in order to finally defeat Satan and free us all from his power. And in this way Jesus won in the desert of death, so as to win in the Resurrection.

Every year, at the beginning of Lent, this Gospel of the temptations of Jesus in the desert reminds us that the life of the Christian, in the footsteps of the Lord, is a battle against the spirit of evil. It shows us that Jesus willingly faced the Tempter, and defeated him; and at the same time it reminds us that the devil is granted the possibility of acting on us too, with his temptations. We must be aware of the presence of this astute enemy, who seeks our eternal condemnation, our failure, and prepare to defend ourselves against him and to combat him. The grace of God assures us, with faith, prayer and penance, of our victory over the enemy. But I would like to underline one thing: in the temptations, Jesus never enters into dialogue with the devil, never. In his life Jesus never had a dialogue with the devil, never. Either He banishes him from the possessed or He condemns him, or He shows his malice, but never a dialogue. And in the desert it seems that there is a dialogue because the devil makes three proposals and Jesus responds. But Jesus does not respond with his words. He answers with the Word of God, with three passages of Scripture. And this is what all of us must do too. When the seducer approaches, he begins to seduce us: “But think of this, do that…", the temptation is to dialogue with him, as Eve did. Eve said: “But we can’t, because …", and entered into dialogue. And if we enter into dialogue with the devil we will be defeated. Keep this in your head and in your heart: you can never enter into dialogue with the devil, no dialogue is possible. Only the Word of God.

During the Season of Lent, the Holy Spirit drives us too, like Jesus, into the desert. It is not, as we have seen, a physical place, but rather an existential dimension in which we can be silent and listen to the word of God, “so that a true conversion might be effected in us” (Collect, First Sunday of Lent B). Do not be afraid of the desert, seek out more moments of prayer, of silence, to enter into ourselves. Do not be afraid. We are called to walk in God’s footsteps, renewing our Baptismal promises: renouncing Satan, and all his works and all his seductions. The enemy is crouching there, beware. But never dialogue with him. Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary.


Pope Francis       

06.03.22 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

1st Sunday of Lent Year C  

Luke 4: 1-13

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon

The Gospel of the Liturgy today, first Sunday of Lent, takes us into the desert, where Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit, for forty days, to be tempted by the devil (cf. Lk 4:1-13). Jesus too was tempted by the devil, and He accompanies us, every one of us, in our temptations. The desert symbolizes the fight against the seductions of evil, to learn to choose true freedom. Indeed, Jesus lives the experience of the desert just before beginning his public mission. It is precisely through this spiritual combat that he decisively affirms what type of Messiah he intends to be. Not this type of Messiah, but that one: I would say that this is indeed the declaration of Jesus’ messianic identity, the messianic way of Jesus. “I am the Messiah, but on this path”. Let us then look closely at the temptations he is battling.

Twice the devil addresses him, saying: “If you are the Son of God…” (vv. 3, 9). He is thus proposing to him to exploit his position: first to satisfy the material needs he feels, hunger (cf. v. 3), then to increase his power (cf. vv. 6-7); and, finally, to have a prodigious sign from God (cf. vv. 9-11). Three temptations. It is as if he were saying, “If you are Son of God, take advantage of it!”. How often this happens to us: “But if you are in that position, take advantage of it! Don’t lose the opportunity, the chance”, that is, “think of your benefit”. It is a seductive proposal, but it leads you to the enslavement of the heart: it makes us obsessed with the desire to have, it reduces everything to the possession of things, power, fame. This is the core of the temptations. It is the “poison of the passions” in which evil is rooted. Look within ourselves, and we will find that our temptations always have this mindset, this way of acting.

But Jesus opposes the attractions of evil in a winning way. How does he do this? By responding to temptations with the Word of God, which says not to take advantage, not to use God, others and things for oneself, not to take advantage of one’s own position to obtain privileges. Because true happiness and true freedom are not found in possessing, but in sharing; not in taking advantage of others, but in loving them; not in the obsession of power, but in the joy of service.

Brothers and sisters, these temptations also accompany us on the journey of life. We must be vigilant – do not be afraid, it happens to everyone – and be vigilant, because they often present themselves under an apparent form of good. In fact, the devil, who is cunning, always uses deception. He wanted Jesus to believe that his proposals were useful to prove that he was really the Son of God. And he does so with us too: he often arrives “with sweet eyes”, “with an angelic face”; he even knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motives!

And I would like to emphasize something. Jesus does not converse with the devil: he never conversed with the devil. Either he banished him, when he healed the possessed, or in this case, when he has to respond, he does so with the Word of God, never with his own word. Brothers and sisters, never enter into dialogue with the devil: he is more cunning than we are. Never! Cling to the Word of God like Jesus, and at most answer always with the Word of God. And on this path, we will never go wrong.

The devil does this with us: he often comes “with gentle eyes”, “with an angelic face”; he even knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motives! If we give in to his flattery, we end up justifying our falsehood by disguising it with good intentions. For instance, how often have we heard  “I have done strange things, but I have helped the poor”; “I have taken advantage of my role – as a politician, a governor, a priest, a bishop – but also for good”; “I have given in to my instincts, but in the end, I did no harm to anyone”, these justifications, and so on, one after the other. Please: no compromises with evil! No dialogue with the devil! We must not enter into dialogue with temptation, we must not fall into that slumber of the conscience that makes us say: “But after all, it's not serious, everyone does it”! Let us look at Jesus, who does not seek accommodation, does not make agreements with evil. He opposes the devil with the Word of God, who is stronger than the devil, and thus overcomes temptation.

May this time of Lent also be a time of the desert for us. Let us take time for silence and prayer – just a little, it will do us good – in these spaces let us stop and look at what is stirring in our hearts, our inner truth, that which we know cannot be justified. Let us find inner clarity, placing ourselves before the Word of God in prayer, so that a positive fight against the evil that enslaves us, a fight for freedom, may take place within us.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin to accompany us in the Lenten desert and to help us on our way of conversion.


Pope Francis          

26.02.23 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

1st Sunday of Lent Year A  

Matthew 4: 1-11 

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

The Gospel of this first Sunday of Lent presents to us Jesus in the desert, tempted by the devil (cf. Mt 4:1-11). “Devil” means “divider”. The devil always wants to create division, and it is what he sets out to do by tempting Jesus. Let us see, then, from whom he wants to divide him, and how he tempts him.

From whom does the devil want to divide Jesus? After receiving Baptism from John in the Jordan, Jesus was called by the Father “my beloved Son” (Mt 3:17), and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove (cf. v. 16). The Gospel thus presents us the three divine Persons joined in love. Then Jesus himself will say that he came into the world to make us, too, partake in the unity between him and the Father (cf. Jn 17:11). The devil, instead, does the opposite: he enters the scene to divide Jesus from the Father and to distract him from his mission of unity for us. He always divides.

Let us now see how he tries to do it. The devil wants to take advantage of the human condition of Jesus, who is weak as he has fasted for forty days and is hungry (cf. Mt 4:2). The evil one then tries to instil in him three powerful “poisons”, to paralyse his mission of unity. These poisons are attachment, mistrust, and power. First and foremost, the poison of attachment to material goods, to needs; with persuasive arguments the devil tries to convince Jesus: “You are hungry, why must you fast? Listen to your need and satisfy it, you have the right and the power: transform the stones into bread”. Then the second poison, mistrust: “Are you sure the Father wants what is good for you? Test him, blackmail him! Throw yourself down from the highest point of the temple and make him do what you want”. Finally, power: “You have no need for your Father! Why wait for his gifts? Follow the criteria of the world, take everything for yourself, and you will be powerful!”. The three temptations of Jesus. And we too live among these temptations, always. It is terrible, but that is just how it is, for us too: attachment to material things, mistrust and the thirst for power are three widespread and dangerous temptations, which the devil uses to divide us from the Father and to make us no longer feel like brothers and sisters among ourselves, to lead us to solitude and desperation. He wanted to do this to Jesus, he wants to do it to us: to lead us to desperation.

But Jesus defeats the temptations. And how does he defeat them? By avoiding discussion with the devil and answering with the Word of God. This is important: you cannot argue with the devil, you cannot converse with the devil! Jesus confronts him with the Word of God. He quotes three phrases from the Scripture that speak of freedom from goods (cf. Dt 8:3), trust (cf. Dt 6:16), and service to God (cf. Dt 6:13), three phrases that are opposed to temptation. He never enters into dialogue with the devil, he does not negotiate with him, but he repels his insinuations with the beneficent Words of the Scripture. It is an invitation to us too; one cannot defeat him by negotiating with him, he is stronger than us. We defeat the devil by countering him in faith with the divine Word. In this way, Jesus teaches us to defend unity with God and among ourselves from the attacks of the divider. The divine Word that is Jesus’ answer to the temptation of the devil.

And we ask ourselves: what place does the Word of God have in my life? Do I turn to it in my spiritual struggles? If I have a vice or a recurrent temptation, why do I not obtain help by seeking out a verse of the Word of God that responds to that vice? Then, when temptation comes, I recite it, I pray it, trusting in the grace of Christ. Let us try, it will help us in temptation, it will help us a great deal, so that, amid the voices that stir within us, the beneficent one of the Word of God will resound. May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God and with her humility defeated the pride of the divider, accompany us in the spiritual struggle of Lent.


Pope Francis       

27.12.23 General Audience  Paul VI Audience Hall

Catechesis. Vices and Virtues. 1. Introduction: safeguarding the heart  

Mark 7: 14,15,21  

Genesis 3: 1

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today I would like to introduce a cycle of catechesis – a new cycle – on the theme of vices and virtues. And we can start right from the beginning of the Bible, where the Book of Genesis, through the account of the progenitors, presents the dynamic of evil and temptation. Let’s consider the earthly Paradise. In the idyllic picture represented by the garden of Eden, a character appears who will be the symbol of temptation: the serpent, this character who seduces. The snake is an insidious animal: it moves slowly, slithering along the ground, and sometimes you do not even notice its presence – it is silent – because it manages to camouflage itself well in its environment, and above all, this is dangerous.

When it begins to converse with Adam and Eve, it shows that it is also a refined dialectician. It begins as one does with wicked gossip, with a malicious question. He says, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’” (Gen 3:1). The phrase is false: in reality, God offered man and woman all the fruits of the garden, apart from those of a specific tree: the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This prohibition is not intended to forbid man the use of reason, as is sometimes misinterpreted, but is a measure of wisdom. As if to say: recognize your limit, do not feel you are the master of everything, because pride is the beginning of all evil. And so, the story tells us that God establishes the progenitors as lords and guardians of creation, but wants to preserve them from the presumption of omnipotence, of making themselves masters of good and evil, which is a temptation – a bad temptation, even now. This is the most dangerous pitfall for the human heart.

As we know, Adam and Eve do not manage to resist the temptation of the serpent. The idea of a God who is not so good, who wanted to keep them in subjection, who wanted to keep them in his submission, insinuated itself into their minds: hence the collapse of everything.

With these accounts, the Bible explains to us that evil does not begin in man in a clamorous way, when an act is already manifest, but the evil begins much earlier, when one begins to fantasize about it, to nurse it in the imagination, thoughts, and ends up being ensnared by its enticements. The murder of Able did not begin with a thrown stone, but with the grudge that Cain wickedly held, turning it into a monster within him. In this case too, God’s recommendations are worthless.

One must never dialogue, brothers and sisters, with the devil. Never! You should never argue. Jesus never dialogued with the devil; He cast him out. And when in the wilderness, with the temptations, He did not respond with dialogue; He simply responded with the words of Holy Scripture, with the Word of God. Be careful: the devil is a seducer. Never dialogue with him, because he is smarter than all of us and he will make us pay for it. When temptation comes, never dialogue. Close the door, close the window, close your heart. And so, we defend ourselves against this seduction, because the devil is astute, intelligent. He tried to tempt Jesus with quotes from the Bible! He was a great theologian there. With the devil you do not dialogue. Do you understand this? Be careful. We must not converse with the devil, and we must not entertain ourselves with temptation. There is no dialogue. Temptation comes, we close the door. We guard our heart.

And that is why we do not converse with the devil. This is the recommendation – guard the heart – that we find in various fathers, saints: guard the heart. Guard the heart. And we must ask for this grace of learning to guard the heart. It is a form of wisdom, how to guard the heart. May the Lord help us [in] this work. But he who guards his heart, guards a treasure. Brothers and sisters, let us learn to guard the heart. Thank you.


Pope Francis          

03.01.24 General Audience  Paul VI Audience Hall  

Catechesis. Vices and Virtues. 2. The spiritual striving

Matthew 3: 13-15

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Last week we introduced the theme of vices and virtues. It refers to the spiritual struggle of the Christian. Indeed, the spiritual life of the Christian is not peaceful, linear and without challenges; on the contrary, Christian life demands constant striving: the Christian striving to preserve the faith, to enrich the gifts of faith in us. It is no coincidence that the first anointing that every Christian receives in the sacrament of Baptism - the catechumenal anointing - is without any aroma and symbolically announces that life is a struggle. In fact, in ancient times, wrestlers were fully anointed before the competition, both to tone their muscles and to make their bodies elusive to their opponent’s grasp. The anointing of catechumens immediately makes it clear that the Christian is not spared the struggle, that the Christian must strive: his existence, like everyone else’s, will have to descend into the arena, because life is a succession of trials and temptations.

A famous saying attributed to Abba Anthony the Great, the first great father of monasticism, goes like this: “Remove temptations and no-one will be saved”. The saints are not men who have been spared temptation, but rather people well aware of the fact that in life the seductions of evil appear repeatedly, to be unmasked and rejected. We all have experience of this, all of us: that a bad thought comes to you, that you feel a desire to do this, or to speak badly of others… All of us, all of us are tempted, and we must strive not to give in to these temptations. If any of you have no temptations, say so, because that would be an extraordinary thing! We all have temptations, and we all have to learn how to behave in these situations.

There are many people who absolve themselves, who declare they are “just fine” – “No, I am good, I don’t have these problems”. But none of us are “alright”; if someone feels they are alright, they are dreaming; every one of us has many things to adjust, and must also be vigilant. And at times it happens that we go to the sacrament of Reconciliation and we say, sincerely, “Father, I don’t remember, I don’t know if I have any sins…”. But this is a lack of awareness of what is happening in the heart. We are all sinners, all of us. And a little examination of the conscience, a little insight, will be good for us. Otherwise, we risk living in the dark, because we have become accustomed to darkness and no longer know how to distinguish good from evil. Isaac of Nineveh said that, in the Church, he who knows his sins and mourns them is greater than he who raises a dead man. We must all ask God for the grace to recognize ourselves as poor sinners, in need of conversion, keeping in our hearts the confidence that no sin is too great for the infinite mercy of God the Father. This is the inaugural lesson Jesus gives us.

We see it in the first pages of the Gospels, primarily in the account of the baptism of the Messiah in the waters of the river Jordan. The episode contains within it something disconcerting: why does Jesus submit to such a rite of purification? He is God, He is perfect! Of what sin must Jesus ever repent? None! Even the Baptist is shocked, to the point that the text says: “John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” (Mt 3:15). But Jesus is a very different Messiah from the way John had presented Him and the people imagined Him: He does not embody the wrathful God and does not summon for judgement, but, on the contrary, queues up with sinners. How come? Yes, Jesus accompanies us, all us sinners. He is not a sinner, but He is among us. And this is a beautiful thing. “Father, I have many sins!” – “But Jesus is with you: talk about them, He will help you come out of it”. Jesus never leaves us alone, never! Think about this. “Oh Father, I have committed serious ones!” – “But Jesus understands you and He accompanies you: He understands your sin and He forgives you”. Never forget this! In the worst moments, in the moments when we slip into sin, Jesus is by our side to help lift us up. This brings consolation. We must not lose this certainty: Jesus is by our side to help us, to protect us, even to lift us up again after sin. “But Father, is it true that Jesus forgives everything?” – “Everything. He came to forgive, to save. Simply, Jesus wants your heart to be open. He never forgets to forgive: it is we who, many times, lose the capacity to ask for forgiveness. Let us regain this capacity to ask for forgiveness. Every one of us has many things to ask forgiveness for: let each one of us think about it, inwardly, and speak about it with Jesus today. Speak with Jesus about this: “Lord, I do not know if this is true or not, but I am sure that You will not turn away from me. I am sure that You forgive me. Lord, I am a sinner, but please do not turn away from me”. This would be a beautiful prayer to Jesus today: “Lord, do not turn away from me”.

And straight after the episode of the baptism, the Gospels tell us that Jesus retreated into the desert, where He is tempted by Satan. In this case too, we ask ourselves: what must the Son of God know temptation? Here too, Jesus shows Himself to be in solidarity with our frail human nature, and becomes our great exemplum: the temptations He faces and overcomes among the arid stones of the desert are the first instruction He gives to our life as disciples. He experienced what we too must prepare ourselves to confront: life is made up of challenges, tests, crossroads, opposing views, hidden seductions, contradictory voices. Some voices are even persuasive, so much so that Satan tempts Jesus by resorting to the words of the Scripture. We must preserve our inner clarity in order to choose the path that truly leads to happiness, and strive not to stop along the way.

Let us remember that we are always torn between opposite extremes: arrogance challenges humility; hatred opposes charity; sadness hinders the true joy of the Spirit; the hardening of the heart rejects mercy. Christians continually walk along these dividing lines. Therefore, it is important to reflect on vices and virtues: it helps us to defeat the nihilistic culture in which the boundaries between good and evil become blurred and, at the same time, it reminds us that the human being, unlike any other creature, can always transcend itself, opening up to God and journeying towards holiness.

The spiritual struggle, then, leads us to look closely at those vices that shackle us and to walk, with the grace of God, towards those virtues that can flourish in us, bringing the springtime of the Spirit into our lives.


Pope Francis

18.02.24 Angelus, St Peter's Square   

1st Sunday of Lent Year B 

Mark 1: 12-15

Dear brothers and sisters, good day!

Today, first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel presents us with Jesus tempted in the desert (cf. Mk 1:12-15). The text says: “He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan”. We too, during Lent, are invited to “enter the wilderness”, that is, silence, the inner world, listening to the heart, in contact with the truth. In the desert, today’s Gospel adds, Christ “was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him” (v. 13). Wild beasts and angels were His company. But, in a symbolic sense, they are our company too: indeed, when we enter the inner wildness, we can encounter wild beasts and angels there.

Wild beasts. In what sense? In the spiritual life we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide the heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them. We can give a name to these “beasts” of the soul: the various vices, the coveting of wealth, which imprisons us in connivance and dissatisfaction, the vanity of pleasure, which condemns us to restlessness and solitude, and the craving for fame, which gives rise to insecurity and a continuous need for confirmation and prominence – let us not forget these things that we can encounter within – covetousness, vanity and greed. They are like “wild” beasts, and as such they must be tamed and fought; otherwise, they will devour our freedom. And Lent helps us to enter the inner wilderness to correct these things.

And then, in the desert, there were the angels. These are God’s messengers, who help us, who do us good: indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service (cf. v. 13): the exact opposite of possession, typical of the passions. Service against possession. The angelic spirits instead recall the good thoughts and sentiments suggested by the Holy Spirit. While temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us and let us enter into harmony: they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, “the flavour of Heaven”. And in order to grasp the inspiration of God, one must enter into silence and prayer. And Lent is the time to do this.

We can ask ourselves, first, what are the disordered passions, the “wild beasts” that agitate in my heart? Second question: to permit the voice of God to speak to my heart and to preserve it in goodness, am I thinking of retreating a little into the “wilderness”, am I trying to dedicate space in the day to this?

May the Holy Virgin, who kept the Word and did not let herself be touched by the temptations of the evil one, help us on our Lenten journey.