On the New Adam's Obedience
"The World Improves Beginning With Ourselves"
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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 21, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Last Wednesday, with the penitential rite of the ashes, we began Lent, a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for the annual celebration of Easter. But what does it mean to enter into the Lenten journey?
The Gospel of this First Sunday of Lent illustrates it, with the account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The evangelist St. Luke tells us that Jesus, after having received baptism from John, “full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2). It is evident that there is an insistence on the fact that the temptations were no accident but the consequence of Jesus’ choice to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father, to embrace completely his reality as beloved Son, who hands himself over entirely to the Father. Christ came into the world to free us from sin and the dangerous fascination of planning our lives without God. He did it not with high-sounding proclamations, but by personally struggling against the Tempter, right to the cross. This is an example for all: The world improves beginning with ourselves, changing what is not right in our lives with the grace of God.
Of the three temptations that Satan proposes to Jesus, the first has to do with hunger, that is, material need: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answers with sacred Scripture: “One does not live on bread alone” (Luke 4:3-4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3).
Then the devil shows all the kingdoms of the earth to Jesus and says: All this will be yours, if you will fall down and worship me. It is the deception of power, and Jesus unmasks this temptation and rejects it: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Luke 4:5-8; Deuteronomy 6:13). Power is not to be worshiped but God alone, truth and love.
Finally, the Tempter proposes that Jesus perform a spectacular miracle: He should throw himself from the high walls of the Temple and make the angels save him so that everyone would believe in him. But Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test (cf. Deuteronomy 6:16). We must never try an experiment in which God is supposed to respond and show himself to be God: we must believe in him! We must not make God “material” for our “experiment”! Referring again to sacred Scripture, Jesus opposes to human criterion the only authentic criterion: obedience, conformity with God’s will, which is the foundation of our being. This too is a basic teaching for us: If we carry the Word of God in our heart and in our mind, if it enters into our lives, if we have confidence in God, we can reject any sort of deception of the Tempter. Moreover, from the whole story there clearly emerges the image of Christ as the new Adam, Son of God, humble and obedient to the Father, unlike Adam and Eve, who in the Garden of Eden gave in to the seductions of the spirit of evil to become immortal without God.
Lent is a long “retreat,” during which we return to ourselves and listen to God’s voice to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and find the truth of our being. It is a time, we could say, of spiritual “contest” to live together with Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the weapons of faith, that is, prayer, listening to God’s Word and penance. In this way we will be able to celebrate Easter in truth, ready to renew the promises of our baptism. May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we live this time of grace with joy and fruit. May she especially intercede for me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia since this evening we will begin our retreat.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]
I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the boys and girls of the London Oratory Junior Choir. In today’s Gospel the Church invites us to contemplate Christ’s victory over temptation and to imitate his complete obedience to the Father’s will. May the Lenten season which we have now begun draw us closer to the Lord in prayer and prepare us to celebrate worthily his victory over sin and death at Easter. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!
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