.- Christ’s 40 days in the desert teach Christians that temptations can be overcome in life if we stay close to Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI said Feb. 26.
“Man is never wholly free from the temptation... but with patience and true humility we become stronger than any enemy,” the Pope said in his Sunday Angelus address, quoting Thomas à Kempis’ famous 15th century devotional work “The Imitation of Christ.”
The Pope addressed thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on the first Sunday of Lent, giving a reflection on St. Mark’s Gospel account of Christ’s forty days in the desert when he was tempted by Satan.
Pope Benedict, citing his fifth century predecessor St. Leo the Great, suggested that Jesus “willingly suffered the attack of the tempter to defend us with his help and to teach us by his example.”
The desert can be a place of “abandonment and loneliness” where temptation becomes stronger, he said. However, it can also indicate “a place of refuge and shelter, as it was for the people of Israel who escaped from slavery in Egypt.” The desert is a place “where we can experience the presence of God in a special way.”
The patience and humility required to defeat “the enemy” come by following Christ every day and from “learning to build our life not outside of him or as if he did not exist, but in him and with him, because he is the source of true life,” the Pope continued.
In contrast to this is the temptation “to remove God, to order our lives and the world on our own, relying solely on our own abilities.”
This is why in Jesus “God speaks to man in an unexpected way, with a unique and concrete closeness, full of love,” because God has now become incarnate and “enters the world of man to take sin upon himself, to overcome evil and bring man back into the world of God.”
In return for this “great gift” Jesus asks that each person “repent and believe in the Gospel.”
This request, explained the Pope, is “an invitation to have faith in God and to convert our lives each day to his will, directing all our actions and thoughts towards good.”
Lent is the perfect season to do this, he concluded, as it provides the ideal opportunity to “renew and strengthen our relationship with God” through daily prayer, acts of penance, and works of fraternal charity.
The Pope prayed that the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany and protect each pilgrim on his or her Lenten journey. He also asked for prayers for himself and for the Roman curia as they begin a seven-day Lenten retreat starting Sunday evening.