After thanking everyone for their love and prayers since he announced his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on how modern culture frequently offers people the temptation to set aside their faith.
“The tests which modern society subjects the Christians, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life,” the Pope said during his Wednesday general audience Feb. 13.
“It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence, it is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases.
“The temptation to set aside their faith is always present, and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times in life,” he told the thousands of pilgrims in Paul VI Hall.
In a change from his series of reflections on faith that coincided with today’s start of Lent, Benedict XVI based his teachings on the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
“What is at the core of the three temptations that Jesus suffered?” he asked. It is the proposal to manipulate God, to use him for your own interests, for your own glory and success, the Pope said.
“Everyone should then ask: what is the role God in my life? And is he the Lord or am I?”
Pope Benedict’s words took on a particular significance since he appeared to follow his own advice in stepping down from the papacy.
He noted that every Christian must undergo the “journey” of overcoming the temptation “to place God in submission to oneself and one’s own interests or to put Him in a corner.”
“Conversion,” he explained, “means following Jesus in so that his Gospel is a real life guide, it means allowing God transform us, no longer thinking that we are the only protagonists of our existence, recognizing that we are creatures who depend on God, His love, and that only by 'losing' our life in Him can we truly have it.”
“This means making our choices in the light of the Word of God,” he emphasized.
“Today we can no longer be Christians as a simple consequence of the fact that we live in a society that has Christian roots: even those born to a Christian family and formed in the faith must, each and every day, renew the choice to be a Christian, to give God first place, before the temptations continuously suggested by a secularized culture, before the criticism of many of our contemporaries.”
Pope Benedict concluded his second to last general audience by calling on everyone to renew their commitment during Lent and the Year of Faith to “the process of conversion, to overcome the tendency to close in on ourselves” and to “make room for God.”