ROME — Pope Francis turned back to one of his favorite topics — the devil — Sunday, urging his hearers never to enter into dialogue with Satan.
Reflecting on the temptations in the wilderness, when Jesus was tested by Satan in the desert prior to his public life, the pontiff said that Christ’s conduct provides a template for Christians of all times in dealing with temptation.
“Jesus does not dialogue with the devil,” the pope declared to the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly Angelus message. “Jesus responds to the devil with the Word of God, not with his own word” and in this way, he defeats Satan.
“In temptation, many times we begin to dialogue with temptation, to dialogue with the devil,” Francis said.
“Never talk to the devil,” he urged. “Be careful: never dialogue with temptation, never dialogue with the devil.”
Pope Francis has often spoken of the devil during his 7-year pontificate, insisting that he is a real person who wills evil to humanity and not some fairytale character.
Satan is not “a myth, a representation, a symbol, a figure of speech or an idea,” Francis wrote in his letter called Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), and falling into this mistake “would lead us to let down our guard, to grow careless and end up more vulnerable.”
In his temptations, “the evil one would like to divert Jesus from carrying out his mission, offering him a perspective of political messianism,” the pope reflected Sunday. “But Jesus rejects the idolatry of human power and glory and, in the end, chases away the tempter.”
“Even today Satan erupts into people’s lives to tempt them with his enticing proposals, mixing his voice with the many that try to tame the conscience,” the pope said. “Messages come from many quarters inviting people to ‘let themselves be tempted’ in order to experience the thrill of transgression.”
In essence, “temptation is the attempt to take alternative ways to those of God,” he said. These alternative ways “give us a feeling of self-sufficiency, of the enjoyment of life as an end in itself. But all this is illusory: soon we realize that the more we distance ourselves from God, the more we feel defenseless and helpless in the face of the great problems of existence.”
“May the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Him who crushed the head of the serpent, help us in this time of Lent to be vigilant in the face of temptations, not to submit to any idol of this world, and to follow Jesus in the fight against evil,” he concluded.
Following the Angelus prayer, the pope told the crowds that because he is battling a cold he will not be able to participate in the week-long Lenten retreat taking place in the Italian town of Ariccia this week.