ROME — The life of a Christian, like the life of Jesus, is a constant struggle against the seductions of Satan, Pope Francis told pilgrims in the Vatican Sunday.
“Christ’s entire ministry is a struggle against the Evil One in its many manifestations: healing from illnesses, exorcising the possessed, forgiving sins,” the pope said before his weekly Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square. “It is a struggle.”
The pope was reflecting on the Gospel of the day, which recounts Christ’s temptations in the desert prior to his public ministry.
“The Holy Spirit descended upon Him immediately after the baptism He received from John in the River Jordan,” Francis said. “The same Spirit now impels Him to go into the desert, to face the tempter, to combat the devil.”
The desert is a place of detachment, where God speaks to the heart, the pontiff said, “but it is also the place of trial and temptation, where the tempter, taking advantage of human frailty and needs, insinuates his lying voice as an alternative to God’s, an alternative voice that makes you see another road, a road of deception.”
During the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert, “the ‘duel’ between Jesus and the devil begins, which will end with the Passion and the Cross,” Francis said.
Christ’s death “was the last ‘desert’ to cross in order to finally defeat Satan and free us all from his power,” he said. “And in this way Jesus won in the desert of death, so as to win in the resurrection.”
On Sunday, Christians around the world celebrated the first Sunday of Lent, a 40-day period of preparation for Holy Week, which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The life of the Christian, Francis said, “in the footsteps of the Lord, is a battle against the spirit of evil. It shows us that Jesus willingly faced the tempter, and defeated him; and at the same time it reminds us that the devil is granted the possibility of acting on us too, with his temptations.”
“We must be aware of the presence of this astute enemy, who seeks our eternal condemnation, our failure, and prepare to defend ourselves against him and to combat him,” he said. “The grace of God assures us, with faith, prayer and penance, of our victory over the enemy.”
“Do not be afraid of the desert, seek out moments of more prayer, of silence, to enter into us,” the pope concluded. “Do not be afraid. We are called to walk in God’s footsteps, renewing our Baptismal promises: renouncing Satan, and all his works and all his empty promises.”