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​For a fruitful Lenten Journey

· Pope and Roman Curia begin Lenten Spiritual Exercises in Ariccia ·

“I hope for everyone that the Lenten journey, just recently begun, may be rich with fruit; and I ask you to remember me and my collaborators of the Roman Curia in your prayers, as this evening we shall begin a week of Spiritual Exercises”, Pope Francis said after reciting the Angelus with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, 10 March. In the afternoon, the Pontiff travelled to Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia on the outskirts of Rome for the Lenten retreat which will last until 15 March and is being led by the Benedictine monk, Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni, Abbot of San Miniato al Monte. This year’s theme is “The City of Ardent Desires: For Paschal Looks and Gestures in the Life of the World”, inspired by the verses of the poet, Mario Luzi (1914-2005) and by the dream of the mayor Giorgio La Pira (1904-1977) who envisioned Florence as a new Jerusalem.

Before the Marian prayer, as customary, Francis had commented on the day’s Gospel (Lk 4:1-13) which narrated Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The temptations “point to three paths that the world always offers, promising great success, three paths to mislead us: the greed for possession - to have, to have, to have -, human vainglory and the exploitation of God. These are three paths that will lead us to ruin”, he explained. The first path, the Pope continued, is “part of the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, happiness, in order to encourage us to believe that all this is possible without God”. The second path is that of human vainglory for which one “can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of money, success and power, in order to achieve one’s own self affirmation. The third path has to do with the exploitation of God “to one’s own advantage” which is perhaps the “most subtle temptation”: that of wanting to ‘pull God to our tide’, asking him for graces which in reality serve and will serve to satisfy our pride”.

Thus, Pope Francis continued, “Jesus personally facing these trials overcomes temptation three times in order to fully adhere to God’s plan”, also revealing “the remedies to us: interior life, faith in God, the certainty of his love, the certainty that God loves us, that he is Father, and [that] with this certainty we will overcome every temptation”. He drew attention to “something interesting: In responding to the tempter, Jesus does not enter into discussion, but responds to the three challenges with only the Word of God”. This, the Holy Father concluded, “teaches us that one does not dialogue with the devil; one must not discuss, one only responds to him with the Word of God”.

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