POPE BENEDICT XVI ON THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT C
St Peter’s Square
1st Sunday of Lent C , 21 February 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Wednesday, with the penitential Rite of Ashes we began Lent, a Season of spiritual renewal in preparation for the annual celebration of Easter. But what does it mean to begin the Lenten journey? The Gospel for this First Sunday of Lent illustrates it for us with the account of the temptations of Jesus in the desert. The Evangelist St Luke recounts that after receiving Baptism from John, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil” (Lk 4: 1). There is a clear insistence on the fact that the temptations were not just an incident on the way but rather the consequence of Jesus’ decision to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father to live to the very end his reality as the beloved Son who trusts totally in him. Christ came into the world to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our life leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself, until the Cross. This example applies to everyone: the world is improved by starting with oneself, changing, with God’s grace, everything in one’s life that is not going well.
The first of the three temptations to which Satan subjects Jesus originates in hunger, that is, in material need: “If you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread”. But Jesus responds with Sacred Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Lk 4: 3-4; cf. Dt 8: 3). Then the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and says: all this will be yours if, prostrating yourself, you worship me. This is the deception of power, and an attempt which Jesus was to unmask and reject: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (cf. Lk 4: 5-8; Dt 6: 13). Not adoration of power, but only of God, of truth and love. Lastly, the Tempter suggests to Jesus that he work a spectacular miracle: that he throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple and let the angels save him so that everyone might believe in him. However, Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test (cf. Dt 6: 16). We cannot “do an experiment” in which God has to respond and show that he is God: we must believe in him! We should not make God “the substance” of “our experiment”. Still referring to Sacred Scripture, Jesus puts the only authentic criterion obedience, conformity to God’s will, which is the foundation of our existence before human criteria. This is also a fundamental teaching for us: if we carry God’s word in our minds and hearts, if it enters our lives, if we trust in God, we can reject every kind of deception by the Tempter. Furthermore, Christ’s image as the new Adam emerges clearly from this account. He is the Son of God, humble and obedient to the Father, unlike Adam and Eve who in the Garden of Eden succumbed to the seduction of the evil spirit, of being immortal without God.
Lent is like a long “retreat” in which to re-enter oneself and listen to God’s voice in order to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and to find the truth of our existence. It is a time, we may say, of spiritual “training” in order to live alongside Jesus not with pride and presumption but rather by using the weapons of faith: namely prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance. In this way we shall succeed in celebrating Easter in truth, ready to renew our baptismal promises. May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we may live joyfully and fruitfully this Season of grace. May she intercede in particular for me and for my collaborators of the Roman Curia, who begin the Spiritual Exercises this evening.
St Peter’s Square
1st Sunday of Lent C, 25 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year the Message for Lent is inspired by a verse of John’s Gospel, which in turn refers to a messianic prophecy of Zechariah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19: 37). The beloved disciple, present at Calvary together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some other women, was an eyewitness to the thrust of the lance that passed through Christ’s side, causing blood and water to flow forth (cf. Jn 19: 31-34). That gesture by an anonymous Roman soldier, destined to be lost in oblivion, remains impressed on the eyes and heart of the Apostle, who takes it up in his Gospel. How many conversions have come about down the centuries thanks to the eloquent message of love that the one who looks upon Jesus crucified receives!
Therefore, we enter into the Lenten Season with our “gaze” fixed on the side of Jesus. In the Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (cf. n. 12), I wished to emphasize that only by looking at Jesus dead on the Cross for us can this fundamental truth be known and contemplated: “God is love” (I Jn 4: 8, 16). “In this contemplation”, I wrote, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move” (n. 12).
Contemplating the Crucified One with the eyes of faith we can understand in depth what sin is, how tragic is its gravity, and at the same time, how immense is the Lord’s power of forgiveness and mercy.
During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality. Looking at Christ, we feel at the same time looked at by him. He whom we have pierced with our faults never tires of pouring out upon the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love.
May humankind understand that only from this font is it possible to draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build that peace and happiness which every human being continually seeks.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, pierced in spirit next to the Cross of her Son, to obtain for us a solid faith. Guiding us along the Lenten journey, may she help us to leave all that distances us from listening to Christ and his saving Word.
To her I entrust in particular the week of Spiritual Exercises that will begin this afternoon here in the Vatican, and in which I will participate along with my collaborators of the Roman Curia.
Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to accompany us with your prayer, which I willingly reciprocate during the recollection of the retreat, invoking the divine power upon each of you, your families and your communities.
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