(Vatican News) On this first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis speaks about the spiritual struggle of Lent and explains how in the desert Jesus defeats the temptations of the Devil, who is the "divider." He illustrates how we too must respond to temptation to sin by recalling the Word of God and putting our trust always in the Lord who is ever ready to help us in our journey of faith.
Offering his customary reflections on the Sunday Gospel before leading the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about how Jesus in the desert was tempted by the devil - which means "divider," as the devil always wants to create divisions. The Gospel reading on this first Sunday of Lent highlights the spiritual struggle Jesus and we all face in our daily lives of opposing temptation through our trust in God and with assistance from our knowledge of the Word of God.
The Pope pointed out how the devil tries to "divide" or separate Jesus from His union with the Father. Jesus received His baptism from John and was called by the Father "My beloved Son," with the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove, the Pope recalled, showing the three divine Persons joined in love. Jesus came into the world to help us partake in this union of love, while the devil instead tries to divide Jesus from this unity and His mission of unity for us, the Pope went on to say.
Challenging the three "poisons"
The Pope then explained how the devil tries to take advantage of Jesus' tiredness and hunger after fasting forty days by trying to administer three "poisons" to jeopardize His mission of unity. The poisons are attachment, mistrust, and power, he explained, adding how insidious these dangerous temptations are: attachment to material goods when the devil tries to get Jesus to stop fasting and to transform the stones into bread; mistrust by trying to get Jesus to test the Father by throwing Himself off the highest point of the temple in order to be saved; and finally power when the devil suggests Jesus take over worldly kingdoms.
“But that is just how it is, for us too: attachment to material things, mistrust and the thirst for power are three widespread and dangerous temptations, which the devil uses to divide us from the Father and to make us no longer feel like brothers and sisters among ourselves, to lead us to solitude and desperation. He wanted to do this to Jesus, he wants to do it to us: to lead us to desperation.”
Defeating the temptations
Jesus rejects and defeats the three temptations by avoiding any debate and discussion with the devil and by answering with the Word of God, the Pope underscored, noting the importance of never discussing or dialoguing with the devil. The three verses from Sacred Scripture that Jesus pronounces that oppose the three temptations speak of freedom from goods (cf. Dt 8:3), trust (cf. Dt 6:16), and service to God (cf. Dt 6:13).
“Jesus never enters into dialogue with the devil, he does not negotiate with him, but he repels his insinuations with the beneficent Words of the Scripture. It is an invitation to us too; one cannot defeat him by negotiating with him, he is stronger than us. We defeat the devil by countering him in faith with the divine Word. In this way, Jesus teaches us to defend unity with God and among ourselves from the attacks of the divider. The divine Word that is Jesus’ answer to the temptation of the devil.”
In conclusion, the Pope suggested we reflect on how the Word of God guides our own lives and how it can help us in our spiritual struggles. If we have a recurring temptation, we should seek help from a verse of the Word of God that helps us, something we can remember, recite, and pray by "trusting in the grace of Christ," he explained.
“Let us try, it will help us in temptation, it will help us a great deal, so that, amid the voices that stir within us, the beneficent one of the Word of God will resound. May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God and with her humility defeated the pride of the divider, accompany us in the spiritual struggle of Lent.”
Source: Pope: Seek unity with God, welcome His Word in face of temptation