Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pope Francis reminds us that "one can’t dialogue with Satan"

Of the many things I find useful in the teaching and witness of Pope Francis, I most appreciate and benefit from how forthrightly and unflinchingly he speaks about Satan, the devil, who, we read in sacred Scripture, "is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour" (1 Pet 5:8). Therefore, "Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings" (1 Pet 5:9).

In his Angelus address for the First Sunday of Lent, commenting on our Gospel reading, the Holy Father, with his characteristic frankness, stated:

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reaffirms [His] firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world. Note well how Jesus responds: He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the terrestrial Paradise. Jesus knows well that one can’t dialogue with Satan, because he is so cunning. For this reason, instead of dialoguing, as Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and to respond with the power of this Word. Let us remind ourselves of this in the moment of temptation, of our temptation: not arguing with Satan, but defending ourselves with the Word of God. And this will save us. In His responses to Satan, the Lord — using the Word of God — reminds us, first, that “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3), and this gives us strength, sustains us in the fight against the worldly mentality that lowers human beings to the level of their basic needs, causing them to lose the hunger for what is true, good, and beautiful, the hunger for God and His love. He also recalls, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” ( v. 7), because the road of faith also passes through darkness, doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Jesus notes, finally, that “it is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve,’” that is, we must get rid of idols, of vanities, and build our lives on the essentials.

These words of Jesus will then find concrete responses in His actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father's plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!
Of course, defeating Satan with the Word of God means knowing the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. But, as St. Jerome averred, "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." It seems that if we are to know Christ, let alone grow to the fullness of His stature, we must study Scripture. What is your plan for more consistently and intensely engaging Scripture during Lent? If you don't have one, keep it simple, read the Gospel According to St. Matthew and perhaps one of St. Paul's shorter letters, like his Letter to the Galatians.

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