On Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the Christian season of lent, the period of prayer and penance leading up to Holy Week and Easter. “Lent,” said the Pope, “is a time of combat” and “a time of spiritual battle against the spirit of evil.”
“In Lent you have to fight,” he said in his weekly Angelus address in Saint Peter’s Square.
Francis said that the key to victory in this warfare is keeping one’s eyes on Jesus. During the forty days that he spent in the desert, the Pope said, “Jesus engaged Satan in ‘hand-to-hand combat,’ unmasked his temptations, and beat him. And in Him we all have won,” he said.
“Then we enter the desert without fear, because we are not alone, we are with Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Crossing the “desert” of Lent, Francis said, we keep an eye on Easter, “which is Jesus’ final victory against evil, against sin and against death.”
The Pope said Jesus voluntarily undertook the “test” of forty days of fasting in the desert, “before beginning his messianic mission,” a test that “prepares him to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”
The desert, Francis said, “is the place where you can hear the voice of God and the voice of the tempter,” something that cannot be done in the noise and confusion of our ordinary lives.
The Pope once again underscored the importance of daily contact with God’s Word, insisting that this was the key to Jesus’ response to Satan and our way of being sure we listen to God’s voice. “Otherwise,” he said “we do not know to respond to the attacks of the evil one.”
“Read the Gospel every day,” he said. “Meditate on it, just a little bit, maybe ten minutes; and also always carry it with you: in your pocket, purse. … But keep the Gospel at hand.”
The Pope also asked for prayers as he begins a week-long retreat known as “spiritual exercises.” He said, “Pray that in this ‘desert’ that are the exercises we can hear the voice of Jesus and also correct the many defects that we all have,” adding, “and also stand up to the temptations that attack us every day.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.