By Christopher Wells
In his Angelus address, Pope Francis said the three temptations Jesus faced “indicate three paths that the world always proposes, promising great success”.
The greed of possession
After Jesus had fasted for forty days, the devil tempted Him to turn stones to bread. This, the Pope said, is “the path of the greed of possession”. The devil always begins with our natural and legitimate needs, he explained, “in order to push us to believe” that we can find fulfillment “without God, and even contrary to Him”. Jesus, however, responds by quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone”.
The path of human glory
The second temptation is “the prospect of becoming a powerful and glorious Messiah”, which Pope Francis describes as “the path of human glory”. Bowing down before the “idols of money, of success, of power” can corrupt us. This leads to “the intoxication of an empty joy that soon fades away” – and this, the Pope says, is why Jesus responds, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve”.
Finally, the devil leads Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem, and “invites Him to cast Himself down” in order to demonstrate His divine power. Pope Francis calls this the path of “instrumentalizing God for one’s own advantage”. Jesus rejects the devil’s temptation, “with the firm decision to remain humble and confident before the Father”. Once again, the Lord quotes Scripture: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God”. In this way, the Pope said, Jesus “rejects perhaps the most subtle temptation: wanting ‘to bring God over to our own side’, by asking Him for graces that only serve to satisfy our own pride”.
All these temptations, the Pope said, are really “illusions” that promise “success and happiness”, but in reality “are all completely foreign to God’s way of acting”. In fact, he said, “they actually separate us from God, because they are the work of Satan”.
Remedies for temptation
Jesus overcomes these three temptations by personally facing them, “in order fully to adhere to the Father’s plan”. In doing so, Pope Francis said, Jesus shows us the remedies for temptations – namely, “the interior life, faith in God, the certainty of His love.” With the certainty that God is Father, and that He loves us, "we will overcome every temptation".
So, Pope Francis said in conclusion, “let us take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, in order to experience the consoling presence of God in our life”.