Before praying his Sunday Angelus before a large crowd in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI told listeners that in order to discover true meaning for their lives, they must seek freedom from sin--something he called an apt activity for this season of Lent.
He began by recalling that yesterday, the Chruch celebrated the first Sunday of the liturgical period of Lent, a time which “encourages Christians to commit themselves on a preparatory journey that leads to Easter."
"Today's Gospel," he told the crowd, "reminds us that Jesus, after having been baptized in the River Jordan and moved by the Holy Spirit which descended upon Him and identified Him as the Christ, withdrew to the desert of Judah for 40 days where He overcame the temptations of Satan.”
The Pope said that in this light, Christians must “spiritually enter the Lenten desert” so as to follow “their Lord and Master…in order to face with Him 'the struggle against the spirit of evil.’"
He went on to explain that "in order to live fulfilling lives in freedom, it is necessary to overcome the trial that freedom itself brings: in other words, temptation. Only when freed from the slavery of lies and sin can human beings - through obedience to the faith that opens them to truth - discover the full meaning of their lives and achieve peace, love and happiness.”
The Holy Father said that "Precisely for this reason, Lent represents an appropriate moment for an attentive examination of life in meditation, prayer and penance."
As the Pope and the Roman Curia enter into their traditional Lenten spiritual exercises--which began last evening--Benedict expressed his hopes that they would "help me and my collaborators in the Roman Curia to enter with greater awareness into this characteristic Lenten atmosphere."
The exercises, led by Cardinal Marco Ce, patriarch emeritus of Venice, Italy, will last until Saturday.
The Pope called on the faithful to accompany him with their prayer during his time of retreat and assured them of his own prayers to the Lord on their behalf. Specifically, he promised his prayers that "for all Christians Lent may be a moment of conversion and of more courageous commitment to sanctity.”
“To this end,” he said, “we invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary."
In this vein, Pope Benedict announced that on Saturday, March 11th, the Vatican will host a Marian vigil organized by Roman university students.
In addition, students from various other European and African countries will also participate through radio and television links.
"It will be," Benedict said, "an appropriate occasion to pray to the Most Holy Virgin that the Gospel may open new channels of communication between the peoples of Europe and of Africa.”
“Dear young people,” he added, “I hope you will participate in large numbers!"