In his morning Mass homily on March 11, Pope Francis explained how the devil tempts us to reject God’s plan.
Drawing from both readings, the Holy Father said that the devil first places obstacles in our path, rather than quickly destroying us.Then he becomes malicious. Jeremiah’s experience is also a prophesy “of the Lord’s passion,” the pope said.
Let’s put up obstacles … The devil doesn’t say, ‘Let’s conquer him,’ or ‘Let’s kick him out.’ No. ‘Let’s make his life difficult. Torment him’…. It’s not only a death sentence. It’s more than that. It’s humiliation….
The devil has two styles when he persecutes Christians, the pope continued. First, he tries to seduce with worldliness by “making them change the plan of redemption.” This is the spirit of the world, expressed on the lips of the Mother of the sons of Zebedee. Vanity, worldliness, careerism, success: these are the ways “the devil proposes to distance us from the cross of Christ.”
When that doesn’t work, he tries to destroy. “The devil’s pride is so great that he tries to destroy and enjoys destroying through maliciousness,” Pope Francis said.
Speaking of the persecution of many saints and Christians, the pope reflected on how the devil acts with brutality: “They are not killed immediately. They are made to suffer.”
This is also what Jesus experienced. The two thieves crucified with Jesus were not tormented like He was. They were left in peace to die. “No one insulted them,” the pope said.
Discernment conquers the devil
Discerning how the devil is working on us is the way to overcome the obstacles the devil places on our path of discipleship, Francis said. When a person is persecuted, they face the devil’s “revenge” because it means they have conquered him. This is evident today in the lives of many Christians who are “cruelly persecuted.”
He then reflected on the suffering endured by Asia Bibi during her 9-year imprisonment. “This is the devil’s maliciousness,” the pope said.
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Pope Francis concluded his homily with a prayer for this discernment:
May the Lord grant us the grace of knowing how to discern when the spirit that wants to destroy us is present… and when the same spirit wants to console us through the appearances of the world, with vanity.May the Lord grant us the grace to discern the Lord’s way, which is the cross, from the way of the world which is vanity, and appearance.
Be careful of Satan when he’s sweet and polite, warns pope