Pope says Lent is spiritual battle

Vatican City, Feb 17, 2013 / 05:23 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Benedict told thousands gathered to bid him farewell that Lent involves spiritual warfare in his second to last Angelus. 

"This always involves a battle, a spiritual battle, because the spirit of evil naturally opposes our sanctification and seeks to deviate us from the way of God," said the Pope today at St. Peter's Square.


Pope Benedict has just 11 days left as head of the Church and 35,000 people have officially registered with the Pontifical Household to bid him farewell.


He said Lent is a "favorable time to rediscover the faith in God as the criterion basis of our life and the life of the Church" from the window of his Apostolic Palace. 


He explained that this battle is the reason why the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent relates each year to Jesus' temptations in the desert.


Pope Benedict began Lent on Feb. 13 distributing ashes at St. Peter's Basilica and sai it is a time of "conversion and penance."


"The Church, which is mother and teacher, calls all its members to be renewed in the spirit, to re-orientate closely to God, denying the pride and selfishness in order to live in love," he told the pilgrims gathered at the square.


He explained today's gospel saying Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil after having received the Holy Spirit in his baptism at the Jordan river. 


"Upon starting his public ministry, Jesus had to expose and reject the false images of the Messiah that the tempter proposed," said Pope Benedict XVI. 


"But these temptations are false images of man and during all times undermine the conscience, disguised and proposed as affordable, effective and even good," he added.


According to Pope Benedict, the evangelists Matthew and Luke rivela three temptations of Jesus, but differ only in the order in which they present them. 


He said the core of the temptations is always to exploit God for some down ends, giving more importance to success or to material goods. 


"The tempter is sneaky: it goes directly to evil, but to a fake well, making believe that the true reality is power and that it meste the basic needs," said the pontiff, who will be resigning as pope in 11 days. 


"God becomes secondary in this way, ultimately becomes unreal because he no longer matters and thus vanishes," he added.  


The 85-year-old said that faith is what is ultimately at stake in temptations because God is at stake. 


"But in hindsight we are at crossroads – do we want to follow the "I" or God? The individual interest or the real good and what is really good?," said Pope Benedict.


"How do we teach the Fathers of the Church that temptations are part of the "descent" of Jesus in our human condition and in the abyss of sin as well as of its consequences," he said. 


The Pope said that temptations are a "falling" where Jesus has come to the end, to the death of the cross and it means the underworld of extreme separation from God. 


He stated that "Jesus is the hand that God has tended to man, the lost sheep, to bring him back to safety." 


But the German pontiff said we do not have to fear facing the fight against the spirit of evil since "Jesus took our temptations to give us his victory."


"The important thing is that we do this with him, with the Winner," said Pope Benedict XVI.


He then greeted the pilgrims in different languages and told the Italian ones their coming in such large numbers "is a sign of affection and spiritual closeness that I have been shown these days." 


Today Pope Benedict will take part in spiritual exercises with members of the Curia at 6pm local time in his Apostolic Palace. 


The retreat will finish on Feb. 23 and for this reason, he has no appointments scheduled this week and will not hold his weekly general audience on Feb. 20. 



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