Lent is the time when we are called to stand up to Satan and “vanquish” him with God’s help, Pope Francis told pilgrims.
Recalling the “temptations in the wilderness,” when Jesus Christ fasted and was tested by Satan for 40 days, the Pope said on Sunday that Jesus won for Christians “the grace to overcome temptation.”
Christ’s preparation for his public life included “combating the evil spirit, that is, the devil,” Francis told the crowds during his Angelus address in Saint Peter’s Square. “For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual contest, of spiritual combat: we are called to confront the Evil One through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to vanquish him in our daily lives.”
“We know that evil is unfortunately at work in our existence and all around us, where violence, rejection of others, hard-heartedness, wars and injustices are manifested. All these are works of the evil one, of evil,” he said.
Since the outset of his pontificate, Pope Francis has made no bones about his belief in the devil as a real person and not a myth or the mere personification of evil.
This generation “was led to believe that the devil is a myth, a picture, an idea, the idea of evil. But the devil exists, and we have to fight him. These are Saint Paul’s words, not mine!” Francis told a morning congregation at daily Mass early in his pontificate.
“The devil,” the Pope went on, “is a liar, the father of lies” and he must be fought, the pontiff said.
According to the Catholic Catechism, “Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan.”
On another occasion, the pope said that the devil “seeks to destroy man,” insisting that Christians must battle him.
“Combat is a daily reality in the Christian life: in our heart, in our life, in our family, in our nation, in our churches … If we don’t fight, we will be defeated,” he said.
“Friends, the devil is a con artist,” Francis once told a group of young people. “He makes promise after promise, but he never delivers. He’ll never really do anything he says. He doesn’t make good on his promises.”
The devil wages a “dirty war” against the Church and Christians, Francis has said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome