Pope Asks for Prayer as He Starts Retreat

Presents Lent as 40 Days of Spiritual Contest

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI entrusted his spiritual exercises that started today to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, asking her to pray that Lent be a time lived «with joy and fruit.»

The Pope said this today before praying the midday Angelus with those in St. Peter’s Square. It was his last public audience until next weekend, as he began this evening his seven-day spiritual exercises.

The Holy Father’s address considered what it means to «enter into the Lenten journey.» He said the Gospel from today’s liturgy — detailing Christ’s temptations in the desert — illustrates the meaning. 

«It is evident that there is an insistence on the fact that the temptations were no accident but the consequence of Jesus’ choice to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father, to embrace completely his reality as beloved Son, who hands himself over entirely to the Father,» the Pontiff said. «Christ came into the world to free us from sin and the dangerous fascination of planning our lives without God. 

«He did it not with high-sounding proclamations, but by personally struggling against the Tempter, right to the cross. This is an example for all: The world improves beginning with ourselves, changing what is not right in our lives with the grace of God.»

The Bishop of Rome noted how Christ answered Satan’s suggestions with sacred Scripture and God’s criteria.

«Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test,» he said. «We must never try an experiment in which God is supposed to respond and show himself to be God: We must believe in him! We must not make God ‘material’ for our ‘experiment!’ 

«Referring again to sacred Scripture, Jesus opposes to human criterion the only authentic criterion: obedience, conformity with God’s will, which is the foundation of our being.»

Benedict XVI said this is a «basic teaching» for us: «If we carry the Word of God in our heart and in our mind, if it enters into our lives, if we have confidence in God, we can reject any sort of deception of the Tempter.»

Thus, the Pope said, Lent can be considered a long retreat, «during which we return to ourselves and listen to God’s voice to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and find the truth of our being. It is a time, we could say, of spiritual ‘contest’ to live together with Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the weapons of faith, that is, prayer, listening to God’s Word and penance.»

Following this itinerary, the Holy Father suggested, «we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism.»

He concluded: «May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we live this time of grace with joy and fruit. May she especially intercede for me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia since this evening we will begin our retreat.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28423?l=english

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