On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI greeted an estimated 100,000 pilgrims who gathered for the midday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father before he resigns from the papacy Feb. 28. Many displayed their affection for him with signs that read “We Will Miss You” and shouting ‘Viva il Papa’ (Long live the Pope).
The 85-year-old Pontiff thanked the faithful for their continuing prayer and support.
Recalling the start of Lent, which began with the traditional distribution of ashes, Pope Benedict reminded the faithful that the Holy Season is a time of conversion and preparation for Easter. “The Church, who is mother and teacher, calls all of her members to renew themselves spiritually, to reorient themselves toward God, renouncing pride and egoism to live in love,” the Pope said.
“In this Year of Faith, Easter is a favorable time to rediscover faith in God as a basic criterion for our life and the life of the Church. This always means a struggle, a spiritual combat, because the evil spirit naturally opposes our sanctification and seeks to turn us away from the path to God. That is why each year on the first Sunday of Lent the Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is proclaimed.”
Continuing his address on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Benedict stated that the temptations by the devil were necessary for Christ to “unmask and reject the false images of the Messiah that the tempter proposed to him.” The Holy Father went on to say that the three temptations of Christ were also false images of man that are disguised as suitable, and “even good proposals.”
“The nucleus of these temptations always consists in instrumentalizing God for our own interests, giving more importance to success or to material goods,” the Holy Father said. “The tempter is clever: he does not direct us immediately toward evil but toward a false good; making us believe that power and things that satiate primary needs are what is most real.”
“In this manner,” he continued, “God becomes secondary; he is reduced to a means, he becomes unreal, he no longer counts, he disappears. In the final analysis, faith is what is at stake in temptations because God is at stake. In the decisive moments of life and, in fact, in every moment of life, we are faced with a choice: do we want to follow the ‘I’ or God? Do we want to follow individual interest or rather the true Good, that which is really good?”
Recalling the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict stated that temptations in the desert are the manifestation of Jesus’ decent in our human condition, a descent that Jesus followed to the point of death. The Holy Father encouraged the faithful to not only be afraid to fight against the devil’s temptation, but more importantly, to do it with Christ, “the Victor” and to turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and “invoke her with filial confidence in the hour of trial.”
Prayers for Next Pope
After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict greeted the pilgrims in various languages expressing his gratitude for expressions of support and love since he announced on Monday his intention to resign from the See of St. Peter.
Addressing the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the Supreme Pontiff asked for continuing prayers for himself and for his successor. “I ask that you continue to pray for me and for the next Pope, as well as for the Spiritual Exercises, which I will begin this evening along with members of the Roman Curia,” the Pope said.
“Full of faith and hope, we entrust the Church to the maternal protection of the Most Holy [Virgin] Mary.”
In English, the Holy Father thanked the faithful “for the prayers and support you have shown me in these days.”
Pope Benedict’s next public appearance will be on Sunday, Feb. 24. This week the Holy Father, along with the Roman Curia, will attend the Lenten Spiritual exercises which will be led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
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On ZENIT’s webpage:
For the full text of the Holy Father’s Sunday Angelus address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-first-sunday-of-lent