On First Sunday of Lent, a Call to Conversion

Believers Called to Follow Christ in the "Desert," Says Pope

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before the recitation of the midday Angelus at St. Peter's Square.



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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Last Wednesday, with the rite of the imposition of ashes, we began Lent, a penitential journey of preparation for Easter, an occasion for all the baptized to renew the spirit of faith and to reinforce their commitment to evangelical consistency.

As today's Gospel suggests (Mark 1:12-15), during the 40 days of Lent believers are called to follow Christ in the "desert" to confront and vanquish with him the spirit of evil. This is an interior struggle, on which the concrete approach to life depends. It is, in fact, from man's heart that his intentions and actions arise (see Mark 7:21); therefore, it is only by purifying the conscience that the path to justice and peace is prepared, both on the personal as well as the social level.

2. In the present international context, the need to purify the conscience and convert the heart to true peace is that much more intense. In this connection, how much more eloquent is the image of Christ, who exposes and overcomes the lies of Satan with the force of truth contained in the Word of God. In the innermost being of every person resound the voice of God and the insidious voice of the Evil One. The latter seeks to deceive man, seducing him with the prospect of false goods, to withdraw him from the real good, which consists precisely in fulfilling the divine will. But humble and confident prayer, reinforced by fasting, enables one to overcome even the harshest trials, and infuses the necessary courage to combat evil with good. Thus Lent is a time of profitable training of the spirit.

3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us invoke the Holy Virgin so that she will guide all of us to go forward with generosity in this demanding Lenten journey. I would like to entrust to your prayers, in a special way, the Spiritual Exercises that, beginning this evening, as every year, I will have the opportunity to undertake together with my closest collaborators of the Roman Curia. During this week of silence and prayer, I will have present the needs of the Church and the concern of the whole of humanity, especially in regard to peace in Iraq and the Holy Land.

[Translation by ZENIT]