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Thursday, March 2, 2017

0517: Reflections on the First Sunday of Lent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0517: Reflections on the First Sunday of Lent   

by Pope Francis 


On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the First Sunday of Lent, on 9 March 2014, 22 February 2015, and 14 February 2016. Here are the texts of three reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and a homily delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 9 March 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Each year, the Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent sets before us the narrative of the temptation of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon him after his Baptism in the Jordan, prompts him to confront Satan openly in the desert for 40 days, before beginning his public ministry.

The tempter seeks to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the way of sacrifice, of the love that offers itself in expiation, to make him take an easier path, one of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan takes place through strong quotations from Sacred Scripture. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the cross, sets before him false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a dramatic and miraculous style, with the idea of throwing himself down from the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and lastly, a shortcut to power and dominion, in exchange for an act of adoration to Satan. These are the three groups of temptations: and we, too, know them well!

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reiterates his firm resolve to follow the path set by the Father, without any kind of compromise with sin or worldly logic. Note well how Jesus responds. He does not dialogue with Satan, as Eve had done in the earthly paradise. Jesus is well aware that there can be no dialogue with Satan, for he is cunning. That is why Jesus, instead of engaging in dialogue as Eve had, chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and responds with the power of this Word. Let us remember this: at the moment of temptation, of our temptations, there is no arguing with Satan, our defence must always be the Word of God! And this will save us. In his replies to Satan, the Lord, using the Word of God, reminds us above all that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; see Dt 8:3); and this gives us the strength, sustains us in the struggle against a worldly mind-set that would lower man to the level of his primitive needs, causing him to lose hunger for what is true, good and beautiful, the hunger for God and for his love. Furthermore, he recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (v. 7), for the way of faith passes also through darkness and doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Lastly, Jesus recalls that “it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve’” (v. 10); i.e., we must rid ourselves of idols, of vain things, and build our lives on what is essential.

Jesus’ words will then be borne out in his actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead him after about three years to the final reckoning with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), at the hour of his Passion and Cross, and Jesus will have his final victory, the victory of love!

Dear brothers and sisters, the time of Lent is a propitious occasion for us all to make a journey of conversion, by sincerely allowing ourselves to be confronted with this passage of the Gospel. Let us renew the promises of our Baptism: let us renounce Satan and all his works and seductions—for he is a seducer—in order to follow the path of God and arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit (see Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year A).


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 22 February 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Last Wednesday, with the rite of Ashes, Lent began, and today is the First Sunday of this Liturgical Season which refers to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, after his Baptism in the River Jordan. St Mark writes in today’s Gospel: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him” (1:12-13). With these simple words the Evangelist describes the trials willingly faced by Jesus before he began his messianic mission. It is a trial from which the Lord leaves victorious and which prepares him to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. In these 40 days of solitude, he confronts Satan “body to body,” He unmasks his temptations and conquers him. And through Him, we have all conquered, but we must protect this victory in our daily lives.

The Church reminds us of that mystery at the beginning of Lent, so that it may give us the perspective and the meaning of this Time, which is a time of combat. Lent is a time of combat! A spiritual combat against the spirit of evil (see Collective Prayer for Ash Wednesday). And while we cross the Lenten “desert,” we keep our gazed fixed upon Easter, which is the definitive victory of Jesus against the Evil One, against sin and against death. This is the meaning of this First Sunday of Lent: to place ourselves decisively on the path of Jesus, the road that leads to life. To look at Jesus. Look at what Jesus has done and go with Him.

This path of Jesus passes through the desert. The desert is the place where the voice of God and the voice of the tempter can be heard. In the noise, in the confusion, this cannot be done; only superficial voices can be heard. Instead we can go deeper in the desert, where our destiny is truly played out, life or death. And how do we hear the voice of God? We hear it in his Word. For this reason, it is important to know Scripture, because otherwise we do not know how to react to the snares of the Evil One. And here I would like to return to my advice of reading the Gospel every day. Read the Gospel every day! Meditate on it for a little while, for 10 minutes. And also to carry it with you in your pocket or your purse. But always have the Gospel at hand. The Lenten desert helps us to say ‘no’ to worldliness, to the “idols,” it helps us to make courageous choices in accordance with the Gospel and to strengthen solidarity with the brothers.

Now let us enter into the desert without fear, because we are not alone: we are with Jesus, with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. In fact, as it was for Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit who guides us on the Lenten journey; that same Spirit that descended upon Jesus and that has been given to us in Baptism.

Lent, therefore is an appropriate time that should lead us to be ever more aware of how much the Holy Spirit, received in Baptism, has worked and can work in us. And at the end of the Lenten itinerary, at the Easter Vigil, we can renew with greater awareness the Baptismal covenant and the commitments that flow from it.

May the Blessed Virgin, model of docility to the Spirit, help us to let ourselves be led by Him, who wishes to make each of us a “new creature.”

To her I entrust, in particular, the week of Spiritual Exercises, that will begin this afternoon, and in which I shall participate with my collaborators of the Roman Curia. I ask that you pray for us, that in this “desert” of the Spiritual Exercises, we may listen to the voice of Jesus, and also correct the many defects that we have. And also to confront the temptations that attack us every day. I ask you therefore to accompany us with your prayers.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Study Center of Ecatepec, Mexico, First Sunday of Lent, 
14 February 2016

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first reading of this Sunday, Moses offers a directive to the people. At harvest time, a time of abundance and first fruits, do not forget your beginnings, do not forget where you came from. Thanksgiving is something which is born and grows among a people capable of remembering. It is rooted in the past, and through good and bad times, it shapes the present. In those moments when we can offer thanks to God for the earth giving us its fruits and thereby helping us make bread, Moses invites his people to remember by enumerating the difficult situations through which it has passed (see Deut 26:5-11).

On this festive day we can celebrate how good the Lord has been to us. Let us give thanks for this opportunity to be together, to present to our Good Father the first fruits of our children, our grandchildren, of our dreams and our plans; the first fruits of our cultures, our languages and our traditions, the first fruits of our concerns. How much each one of you has suffered to reach this moment, how much you have “walked” to make this day a day of feasting, a time of thanksgiving. How much others have walked, who have not arrived here and yet because of them we have been able to keep going. Today, at the invitation of Moses, as a people we want to remember, we want to be the people that keeps alive the memory of God who passes among his People, in their midst. We look upon our children knowing that they will inherit not only a land, a culture and a tradition, but also the living fruits of faith which recalls the certainty of God’s passing through this land. It is a certainty of his closeness and of his solidarity, a certainty which helps us lift up our heads and ardently hope for the dawn.

I too join you in this remembrance, in this living memory of God’s passing through your lives. As I look upon your children I cannot but make my own the words which Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed to the Mexican people: “A Christian cannot but show solidarity; to solve the situation of those who have not yet received the bread of culture or the opportunity of an honorable job, he cannot remain insensitive while the new generations have not found the way to bring into reality their legitimate aspirations.” And then Blessed Paul VI continued, offering this invitation to “always be on the front line of all efforts to improve the situation of those who suffer need, to see in every man a brother and in every brother Christ” (Radio Message on the 75th Anniversary of the Crowning of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 October 1970).

I invite you today to be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.

This land is filled with the perfume of la Guadalupana who has always gone before us in love. Let us say to her, with all our hearts:

Blessed Virgin, “help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (Evangelii Gaudium, no. 288).


HOLY MASS IN ECATEPEC, MEXICO

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

First Sunday of Lent, 14 February 2016

Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, not to let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in a “memory chest.” Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel like beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.

Our Father, He is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child.” He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is “Our Father,” not “my father” or “your stepfather.”

God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.

Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies—and we hear in the Gospel how he acted towards Jesus—by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and confrontational family; a society which is divided and at loggerheads, a society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbors, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often—and it pains me to say it—have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.

Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us: There are three temptations of Christ, three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.

First, wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people.” That is, taking “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. That is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.

The second temptation, vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who “are not like me.” The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the “reputation” of others. “Making firewood from a felled tree” gradually gives way to the third temptation, the worst. It is that of pride, or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals,” and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others.”

The three temptations of Christ. Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.

It is worth asking ourselves:

To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?

How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?

To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?

We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one. If we remember what we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not reply to the devil with any of his own words, but rather he the words of God, the words of scripture. Because brothers and sisters, and let us be clear about this, we cannot dialogue with the devil, we cannot do this because he will always win. Only the power of God’s word can overcome him. We have opted for Jesus and not for the devil; we want to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust.” Will you repeat it together? Three times: “You are my God and in you I trust.” “Your are my God and in you I trust.”

In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus,” knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (see Evangelii Gaudium, no. 1). 



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For reflections on the First Sunday of Lent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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