St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Wednesday, we entered Lent with fasting and the Rite of Ashes. But what does "entering Lent" mean? It means we enter a season of special commitment in the spiritual battle to oppose the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us. It means looking evil in the face and being ready to fight its effects and especially its causes, even its primary cause which is Satan.
This year the beginning of Lent providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions in Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX, Mary appeared to St Bernadette Soubirous for the first time on 11 February 1858 in the Grotto of Massabielle. Another three Apparitions accompanied by extraordinary events followed in succession and finally the Blessed Virgin took her leave of the young seer, in the local dialect, by disclosing to her: "I am the Immaculate Conception". The message that Our Lady continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his public mission, which we hear several times during these days of Lent: "Repent, and believe in the Gospel", pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary's invitation which echoes Christ's and ask her to obtain for us that we may "enter" Lent with faith, to live this season of grace with inner joy and generous commitment.
Let us also entrust to the Virgin the sick and all who take loving care of them. Indeed, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated tomorrow, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. I wholeheartedly greet the pilgrims who will be gathering in St Peter's Basilica, led by Cardinal Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. Unfortunately I shall not be able to meet them because this evening I will begin Spiritual Exercises, but in silence and recollection I will pray for them and for all the needs of the Church and of the world. To all who desire to remember me to the Lord, I offer my sincere thanks from this moment.
After the Angelus:
I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Angelus. I particularly welcome members of the Hohenfels Catholic Military Faith Community from the United States of America, as well as young people from the Sant'Egidio Community in Asia and Oceania who are attending a formation course in Rome. My dear friends, this past week we began our Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and - in a special way - almsgiving. I invite all believers to enter this "spiritual battle" with hearts full of generosity towards those in need. In this way, we learn to make our lives a total gift to God and to our brothers and sisters. I wish you all a fruitful preparation for the Paschal Feast!
I wish you all a good Sunday and a rewarding Lenten season.
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This is the First Sunday of Lent, the liturgical Season of 40 days which constitutes a spiritual journey in the Church of preparation for Easter. Essentially it is a matter of following Jesus who is walking with determination towards the Cross, the culmination of his mission of salvation. If we ask ourselves: “Why Lent? Why the Cross?”, the answer in radical terms is this: because evil exists, indeed sin, which according to the Scriptures is the profound cause of all evil. However this affirmation is far from being taken for granted and the very word “sin” is not accepted by many because it implies a religious vision of the world and of the human being.
In fact it is true: if God is eliminated from the world’s horizon, one cannot speak of sin. As when the sun is hidden, shadows disappear. Shadows only appear if the sun is out; hence the eclipse of God necessarily entails the eclipse of sin. Therefore the sense of sin — which is something different from the “sense of guilt” as psychology understands it — is acquired by rediscovering the sense of God. This is expressed by the Miserere Psalm, attributed to King David on the occasion of his double sin of adultery and homicide: “Against you”, David says, addressing God, “against you only have I sinned” (Psalm 51(50):6).
In the face of moral evil God’s attitude is to oppose sin and to save the sinner. God does not tolerate evil because he is Love, Justice and Fidelity; and for this very reason he does not desire the death of the sinner but wants the sinner to convert and to live. To save humanity God intervenes: we see him throughout the history of the Jewish people, beginning with the liberation from Egypt. God is determined to deliver his children from slavery in order to lead them to freedom. And the most serious and profound slavery is precisely that of sin.
For this reason God sent his Son into the world: to set men and women free from the domination of Satan, “the origin and cause of every sin”. God sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become a victim of expiation, dying for us on the Cross. The Devil opposed this definitive and universal plan of salvation with all his might, as is shown in particular in the Gospel of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness which is proclaimed every year on the First Sunday of Lent. In fact, entering this liturgical season means continuously taking Christ’s side against sin, facing — both as individuals and as Church — the spiritual fight against the spirit of evil each time (Ash Wednesday, Opening Prayer).
Let us therefore invoke the maternal help of Mary Most Holy for the Lenten journey that has just begun, so that it may be rich in fruits of conversion. I ask for special remembrance in prayer for myself and for my co-workers in the Roman Curia, as we shall begin the week of Spiritual Exercises this evening.
After the Angelus:
His Holiness Benedict xvi expressed his spiritual closeness to the people of Japan
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The images of the tragic earthquake and the consequent tsunami in Japan have left us all deeply shocked. I would like to renew my spiritual closeness to the beloved peoples of that country who are facing the consequences of such a disaster with dignity and courage. I pray for the victims and their relatives, and for all who are suffering because of these appalling events. I encourage everyone who is working with praiseworthy promptness to bring them aid. Let us remain united in prayer. The Lord is close to us!
As I greet you this morning, I ask you to join me in praying for the victims of the recent devastation visited upon Japan. May the bereaved and injured be comforted and may the rescue workers be strengthened in their efforts to assist the courageous Japanese people.
* * *
Turning to the pilgrims present at today’s Angelus prayer, I greet especially the Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and their chaplains, as well as the members of the Nazareth Academy Choir. Entrusting all of you to the care of Mary, Mother of the Church, I invoke upon you and your loved ones the Blessings of Almighty God.
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Lenten journey. Thanks.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
Saint Peter's Square
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. in dialogue as That is why Jesus, instead of engaging 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” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 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” (John 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).
After the Angelus:
I extend a cordial greeting to the faithful of Rome and to all pilgrims!
A special thought goes to the young people of Rosolina who will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this next Sunday; and to those from Tuscany who are in Rome making their “promise” to follow Jesus; and to those from Paderno Dugnano, Seregno, Bellaria, and Curno.
During this Lenten season, let us bear in mind the invitation of Caritas International to join in its campaign against world hunger. May the Lenten journey which has just begun be fruitful; and I ask you to remember me and my collaborators of the Roman Curia in your prayers, as we start the week of Spiritual Exercises this evening. Thank you!
Have a good Sunday and a good lunch. Arrivederci!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Pope Francis I, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
23 March 2014