In a heartfelt homily on the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis told his hearers to beware of the temptations of Satan, especially to wealth, vanity and pride, and warned them never to “dialogue with the devil.”
On the second full day of his apostolic trip to Mexico, the Pope celebrated Sunday Mass for an immense throng of hundreds of thousands of faithful in Ecatepec, a poor Mexico City suburb plagued by drug violence, killings and kidnappings.
The Gospel reading of the day recounted that before beginning his public ministry, Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert where he was tempted by the devil, and the Pope brought the message home to the congregation, insisting that they are subject to the same temptations.
The Pope said that God’s dream for us “is continually threatened by the father of lies” who “tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family” that becomes “a society of the few, and for the few.”
Noting that Satan tempted Jesus three times, Francis said that in a similar way there are three principal temptations for the Christian—riches, vanity and pride—and that these temptations “seek to destroy what we have been called to be” and “lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.”
In the first place, the Pope decried ill-gotten wealth that “tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering” and is built up by exploiting the toil of others.
The second temptation, Francis said, is to vanity, or “the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who ‘are not like me.’”
The third temptation, however, is “the worst,” Francis said. “It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on.”
Last fall, Father Juan José Gallego, the exorcist for the archdiocese of Barcelona, Spain, said that the devil’s favorite sin is pride, a conviction commonly held by Christians for centuries.
The celebrated Christian apologist C.S. Lewis referred to pride as “the great sin” and wrote that it was through pride that the devil became the devil. “Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind,” he said.
“There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others,” Lewis wrote.
Pope Francis urged his hearers to resist these three temptations and to remember: “We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one.”
He also warned the crowds never to engage in dialogue with the devil, but to rely on God’s grace as their strength.
“We cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because he will always win,” Francis said. “Only the power of Gods’ word can overcome him.”
The Pope said that the Lenten season is the time of year given for our conversion, when God wants to “heal our hearts of all that tears us down.”
“We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil,” Francis repeated, and our true treasure “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,’” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome