ROME — The battle between good and evil is at the heart of the Christian life, Pope Francis told pilgrims Sunday, which means resisting the devil, God’s “quintessential opponent.”
Reflecting on the gospel parable of the wheat and the weeds, which speaks of a man who sows good seed in his field while his adversary sows bad seed, the pope likened the story to God’s work in the world as opposed to that of Satan.
“Alongside God – the master of the field – who only and always sows good seed, there is an adversary, who sows weeds to impede the wheat’s growth,” Francis said to the crowds gathered for his Angelus message in the Vatican.
God works in the open, while the devil works under cover of darkness, the pontiff suggested.
“The master acts in the open, in broad daylight, and his goal is a good harvest,” he said. “Instead, the other, the adversary, takes advantage of the darkness of night and works out of envy and hostility to ruin everything.”
“The adversary that Jesus refers to has a name: it is the devil, God’s quintessential opponent,” Francis said. “The devil’s intention is to hinder the work of salvation, to stonewall the Kingdom of God through wicked workers, sowers of scandal.”
“In fact, the good seed and the weeds do not represent good and bad in the abstract, but us human beings, who can follow God or the devil,” he said.
“Destruction always happens by sowing evil,” he said. “It is always the devil who does this or our own temptations: when we fall into the temptation to gossip to destroy others.”
The pope went on to make a distinction: the Christian’s war against evil must not be confused with wanting to immediately eliminate all people who do evil things.
“Certainly, evil must be rejected, but those who do evil are people with whom it is necessary to be patient,” Francis said. “This does not mean that type of hypocritical tolerance that hides ambiguity; but rather, justice tempered by mercy.”
“If Jesus came to seek sinners more than the righteous, to cure the sick first before the healthy, so must the actions of His disciples be focused not on suppressing the wicked, but on saving them,” he added. “Patience lies here.”
Christ’s disciples “must learn to wait because enduring persecution and hostility is part of the Christian vocation,” he said.
Since the beginning of his pontificate in 2013, Pope Francis has often made reference to the devil, insisting that he is not a myth or a fairy tale but a real being, a fallen angel who tries to turn people away from God.
According to official Catholic teaching, Satan or the devil is not merely a personification of evil but a “fallen angel” who was created by God as a good angel, but rejected God and became his enemy.