Pope Benedict XVI spoke about the significance of Lent in his words before the Angelus on Sunday at the Vatican. Today’s Gospel, he said, illustrates how Lent provides time for "a long retreat" in which we can rebuild in order to face the temptations of the devil.
The Holy Father outlined Luke's Gospel account in which Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit, walked out into the desert where he was tempted by the devil over the course of 40 days.
The temptations were not just an "incident" along the path, said the Pope, but "the consequence of Jesus' decision to follow the mission entrusted to him by the Father.”
"Christ came to the world to free us from sin and from the ambiguous attraction of planning our lives apart from God." The Pope added, that he didn't do it with "sonorous proclamations, but by fighting first hand against the Tempter, up to the Cross."
"This example is valid for everyone," the Pope observed, "the world improves starting with ourselves, changing, with the grace of God, that which isn't going right in our lives."
Referring back to the Gospel, Pope Benedict pointed out that when Jesus fights Satan's temptations to material needs, power and pride by using Sacred Scripture, "He puts the only true criteria, obedience to the will of God, before human criteria."
"This is also a fundamental teaching for us," reflected the Holy Father, "if we carry in our minds and hearts the Word of God, (and) this enters into our lives, we can repel every type of trick from the Tempter.
"Lent," he concluded, "is like a long retreat, during which to reenter into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, and to defeat the temptation of the Evil One."
We can use this time of "spiritual competition," to "live together with Jesus, not with pride or presumption, rather using the weapons of faith, prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance."
"In this way we can arrive to the celebration of Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our Baptism."
The Holy Father will begin Lenten spiritual exercises in the Vatican "Redemptoris Mater" chapel with a series of meditations offered by Salesian Fr. Enrico dal Covolo on "Lessons from God and The Church on the Priestly Vocation" beginning Sunday afternoon and continuing until Saturday, Feb. 27.