Pope Francis: Lent is a time to ‘encounter wild beasts and angels’

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On the first Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis focused his Angelus address on the temptation of Jesus in the desert to highlight that it is an invitation for us to enter the proverbial desert to come “in contact with the truth.”

Vatican City: (By Matthew Santucci for CNA) Observing that during the 40 days in the desert Christ was in the company of both “wild beasts and angels,” the pope reflected that when we enter this symbolic “inner wildness,” we too “encounter wild beasts and angels.”

These wild beats assume a deeply symbolic meaning in our “spiritual life,” and so “we can think of them as the disordered passions that divide our heart, trying to take possession of it. They entice us, they seem seductive, but if we are not careful, we risk being torn apart by them,” the pope said to the nearly 15,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.

Expanding upon this idea of “disordered passions,” the pope suggested that we can conceive of them also as “the various vices,” such as “the lust for wealth” or “the vanity of pleasure.”

“They must be tamed and fought, otherwise they will devour our freedom,” the pope emphasized. 

In order to confront these vices that afflict each and every one of us, the pope stressed that we need “to go into the wilderness to become aware of their presence and to face them — and Lent is the time to do it.”

The setting of the desert has featured prominently in the pope’s catechetical series throughout the year and is the main theme of this 2024 Lenten message, taken from the Book of Exodus: “Through the Desert God Leads Us to Freedom.”

While it is imperative to undertake this journey of self-examination, the pope underscored that we are not alone: We are aided by the angels, who “are God’s messengers, who help us, who do us good.”

Indeed, their characteristic, according to the Gospel, is service, the exact opposite of possession, typical of the passions we spoke about earlier,” the pope continued.

Juxtaposing the spirit of possession with the virtue of service, the pope stressed that the angels “recall the good thoughts and sentiments suggested by the Holy Spirit,” adding that “while temptations tear us apart, the good divine inspirations unify us in harmony, they quench the heart, infuse the taste of Christ, ‘the flavor of heaven.’”

“Thus, order and peace return to the soul, beyond the circumstances of life, whether favorable or unfavorable. Here, too, however, in order to grasp the thoughts and feelings inspired by God, one must be silent and enter into prayer,” the pope continued.

The pope asked the faithful to examine what are these personal “wild beasts” in our own lives, so that we can “recognize them, give them a name, understand their tactics.” In this way we can “permit the voice of God to speak to my heart and to preserve it in goodness.”

On Sunday evening the pope and the members of the Roman Curia will start their private Lenten retreat, which will conclude on the afternoon of Friday, Feb. 23.

All regularly scheduled papal audiences are suspended for the week.

 

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