Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
In this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel recalls the themes of temptation, of conversion, and of the Good News. Three themes: temptation, conversion, and Good News.
The Evangelist Mark writes, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” Jesus goes into the desert to prepare Himself for His mission in the world. He has no need of conversion, but, insofar as He is man, He must pass through this trial, both for Himself, to obey the will of the Father, and for us, to give us the grace to overcome temptation. This preparation consists in fighting against the spirit of evil, that is, against the devil. For us, too, Lent is a time of spiritual "training" [It: agonismo], of spiritual combat: we are called to face the Evil one through prayer, to be able, with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily life. We know, unfortunately, that evil is at work in our existence and all around us, wherever violence, rejection of the other, being closed, wars, or injustices occur. All these things are works of wickedness, of evil.
Immediately after the temptations in the desert, Jesus begins to preach the Gospel, that is, the Good News, the second word. The first was "temptation,", the second, "Good News." And this Good News requires of human beings conversion — the third word — and faith. He proclaims, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” — believe, that is, in this Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand. In our life we always have need of conversion — every day! — and the Church has us pray for this. In fact, we are never sufficiently oriented toward God, and we must continually direct our mind and our heart to Him. To do this we need to have the courage to reject all that leads us astray, the false values that mislead us, by attracting, in a deceitful way, our selfishness. Instead we must entrust ourselves to the Lord, to His goodness, and to His project of love for each one of us. Lent is a time of repentance, yes, but it is not a sad time! We must be attentive to this: it is a time of repentance, but it is not a sad time, a time of mourning. It is a joyful and serious duty to strip ourselves of our selfishness, of our ‘old man,’ and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism.
Only God can give us true happiness: it is useless for us to waste our time seeking it elsewhere, in riches, in pleasures, in power, in careers… the kingdom of God is the realization of all our aspirations, because it is, at the same time, the salvation of man and the glory of God. In this first Sunday of Advent, we are invited to listen attentively and to take up this appeal of Christ to be converted and to believe in the Gospel. We are called to begin the journey towards Easter with commitment, to welcome more and more the grace of God, who desires to transform the world into a kingdom of justice, of peace, of fraternity.
May Mary Most Holy help us to live this Lent with fidelity to the Word of God and with incessant prayer, as Jesus did in the desert. It is not impossible! It means living the days with the desire to welcome the love that comes from God, and that desires to transform our life, and the whole world.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
Next month, from March 19th through the 24th, about 300 young people from all over the world will come to Rome for a preparatory meeting for the Synod taking place in October. But I strongly desire that all young people might be the protagonists of this preparation. Therefore, they will be able to contribute online through linguistic groups moderated by other young people. The contribution of the “groups of networks” will be united to those of the meeting in Rome. Dear young people, you can find more information on the website of the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. I thank you for your contribution to making this journey together!
I greet all of you, families, parish groups, associations, and all the pilgrims coming from Italy and from different countries. I greet the faithful of the dioceses of Murcia, Vannes, Warsaw, and Wroclaw; as well as those of Erba Vignole, Fonteneto d’Agogna, Silvi and Troina. I greet the boys and girls of the deanery of Baggio in Milan, and of Melito Porto Salvo.
At the beinning of Lent, which — as I’ve said — is a journey of conversion and of struggle against evil, I want to offer special good wishes to prisoners: dear brothers and sisters who are in prison, I encourage each one of you to live the period of Lent as an occasion of reconciliation and of renewal of lives under the merciful gaze of the Lord. He never tires of forgiving.
I wish all of you a happy Sunday! Enjoy your lunch, and see you soon!