The Vatican

"The Holy Spirit pushes us to enter the desert."

Pope Francis recalled in this Sunday's Angelus that God's grace assures us victory over the enemy.

David Fernández Alonso-February 21, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
angelus Pope Francis

On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis had his usual Angelus prayer from the window of the Apostolic Palace, addressing the faithful who had been able to come to St. Peter's Square.

On this occasion, the Holy Father began by referring to the beginning of Lent, "with the penitential rite of ashes, we begin the journey of Lent. Today, the first Sunday of this liturgical season, the Word of God shows us the way to live fruitfully the forty days leading up to the annual celebration of Easter".

Forty days

The forty days leading up to Easter, Francis recalled, "is the journey made by Jesus, which the Gospel, in the essential style of Mark, summarizes by saying that before beginning his preaching, he withdrew for forty days into the desert, where he was tempted by Satan (cf. 1:12-15). The evangelist emphasizes that "the Spirit drives Jesus into the desert" (v. 12).

As should be ours, "Jesus' whole existence is placed under the sign of the Spirit of God, who animates, inspires and guides him".

The desert: natural and symbolic

The Pope wanted to dwell on the idea of the desert: "Let us pause for a moment in this natural and symbolic environment, so important in the Bible. The desert is the place where God speaks to the heart of man, and where the answer to prayer flows. But it is also the place of trial and temptation, where the Tempter, taking advantage of human frailty and needs, insinuates his deceptive voice, an alternative to that of God. Indeed, during the forty days lived by Jesus in the desert, the "duel" between Jesus and the devil begins, which will end with the Passion and the Cross".

God's grace assures us, through faith, prayer and penance, victory over the enemy.

In this way, Francis continues, "the whole ministry of Christ is a struggle against the Evil One in his many manifestations: cures of diseases, exorcisms of the possessed, forgiveness of sins. After the first phase in which Jesus demonstrates that he speaks and acts with the power of God, it seems that the devil prevails when the Son of God is rejected, abandoned and finally captured and condemned to death. In reality, death was the last "desert" to cross in order to definitively defeat Satan and free us all from his power".

A battle against evil

This liturgical season, with this Sunday's Gospel of the temptations of Jesus in the desert "reminds us that the Christian's life, in the footsteps of the Lord, is a battle against the spirit of evil. It shows us that Jesus willingly confronted the Tempter and defeated him; and at the same time it reminds us that the devil is given the possibility to act also on us with his temptations.

"We must be aware of the presence of this crafty enemy, interested in our eternal condemnation, in our failure, and prepare ourselves to defend ourselves against him and fight him. God's grace assures us, through faith, prayer and penance, the victory over the enemy. In the season of Lent, the Holy Spirit also urges us, like Jesus, to enter the desert. It is not - as we have seen - a physical place, but an existential dimension in which to be silent and listen to the word of God, "so that true conversion may be accomplished in us" (Collect prayer 1st Sunday of Lent B).

Finally, Francis concluded, "we are called to walk in the ways of God, renewing the promises of our baptism: to renounce Satan, all his works and all his seductions. We entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary".

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