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placeholder March 26, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 6   •   Oakland, CA
Lent should be time of grace,
defeating temptation, pope says

VATICAN CITY The 40 days of Lent are a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter, but they also are a time to recognize that evil is at work in the world and even the Catholic Church faces temptations, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Like the people of Israel during their 40-year exodus and like Jesus during his 40 days in the desert, the Catholic Church and its members experience the grace of God, but also are besieged by evil around them and are tempted by power and selfishness, the pope said.
Pope Benedict XVI leads his general
audience in St. Peter's Square at the
Vatican March 14.
CNS photo/Paul Haring

Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, withdrew to the desert for 40 days. Fasting, "he nourished himself on the word of God, which he used as a weapon to defeat the devil," the pope said.

Pope Benedict said experience of God's grace and of temptation is not unique to modern Catholics or to the church.

During their 40 years in the desert, the people of Israel were guided by God, fed with manna and given water from a rock, but they also were tired, complaining and tempted to return to idol worship, the pope said. And, spending 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry, Jesus experienced the closeness of God, but also faced the devil's temptations of "power, success and dominion."

"This ambivalent situation also describes the condition of the church journeying through the desert of the world and history. In this desert, we believers certainly have the opportunity of having a profound experience of God, who strengthens our spirit, confirms our faith, nourishes our hope and animates our charity," the pope said.

However, he said, "the desert is also the negative aspect of the reality that surrounds us: the aridity, the poverty of words and values, the secularism and materialism" that attempt to convince people that God does not exist.

Still, "the desert time can be transformed into a time of grace" because God's love is more powerful than the temptations of the world, the pope said.

The pope explained the meaning of Lent during his weekly general audience Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday.

Faith is light

When life feels like a dark and silent tunnel, faith gives a Christian light and music, Pope Benedict said at the end of his weeklong Lenten retreat. Congolese Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa led the pope's retreat Feb. 26-March 3 in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, offering the pope and top Vatican officials three meditations each day on the theme "Christians' Communion With God."

"Often we find ourselves in a dark tunnel in the middle of the night, but through faith we see a light at the end and hear beautiful music, perceiving the beauty of God," the pope said.

Confession a beginning

In an address March 9, the pope said confession can help Catholics build lives filled with hope and holiness, which are needed for effective evangelization. "New evangelization, therefore, also starts from the confessional," he told confessors and other participants attending a course sponsored by the Apostolic Penitentiary a Vatican court that handles issues related to the absolution of sin. New evangelization "draws its life blood from the holiness of the children of the church, from the daily journey of personal and communal conversion to adhere ever more deeply to Christ, he said. There is a strong link between holiness and the sacrament of reconciliation, he said. The true conversion of a person's heart that has opened itself to God's transformative power of renewal "is the driving force of every reform and it translates into a true evangelizing force," the pope said. The sacrament of reconciliation reminds people of God's limitless capacity to "transform, illuminate all the dark corners and continually open up new horizons," he said. Through confession and God's mercy, the repentant sinner becomes a new person who is "justified, pardoned and sanctified," who can become a grace-filled and more authentic witness to God's love, he said. "Only he who lets himself be deeply renewed by divine grace can carry in himself, and therefore proclaim, the Gospel news," he said.

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