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Pope Francis has repeatedly urged us to “never dialogue with the devil.” Satan is stronger and smarter than us (he’s an angel), and — as Eve makes abundantly clear in Eden — if we enter into conversation with him, we’re going to end up the losers.
Jesus gives us the alternative. When Our Lord was tempted in the desert, he didn’t discuss and argue with Satan. Instead, he rebuked his temptations with Scripture, until finally telling him, “be gone.”
Pope Francis considered the passage of Christ’s temptations in the desert before praying the midday Angelus on February 26.
Noting how Jesus responds to Satan with Scripture, the Pope then concluded with a practical recommendation, drawing from Jesus’ tactic:
We ask ourselves: What place does the Word of God have in my life? Do I turn to it in my spiritual struggles? If I have a vice or a recurrent temptation, why do I not obtain help by seeking out a verse of the Word of God that responds to that vice? Then, when temptation comes, I recite it, I pray it, trusting in the grace of Christ.
“Let us try,” Pope Francis said. “It will help us in temptation, it will help us a great deal, so that, amid the voices that stir within us, the beneficent one of the Word of God will resound.”
“May Mary, who welcomed the Word of God and with her humility defeated the pride of the divider, accompany us in the spiritual struggle of Lent,” he prayed.
Passages for various vices
Taking the Pope’s words to heart, we consider Gospel passages that could oust some of the vices or recurrent temptations we face:
1Anger – Mark 4:39
“Waking up, [Jesus] rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Be silent! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.”
Anger can overcome us the way a storm “overcomes” the sea, stirring up our passions so that we lash out like angry waves. Allow the commanding presence of Jesus to bring us to calm when we are tempted to lash out in anger.
2Lying – Luke 22:61
“The Lord turned and looked at Peter.”
In this passage, Peter had just told a lie, and swore by it. It was the worst possible lie — denying Jesus. But Jesus brings him to contrition with his gaze. Let us become aware of Christ looking upon us as we are tempted to lie, and let the strength of his loving gaze give us strength.
3Jealousy – Luke 15:31
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.“
If we feel jealous, we’ve probably forgotten our “divine filiation” — that is, that we are sons and daughters of the King of the universe. What heir of royal riches needs to long for passing things, much less begrudge another the use of them?
4Gossip – Luke 23:11
“[Herod] put an elegant robe on him and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other.”
Gossip — that vice so detested by Pope Francis — delights in the real or perceived errors of others. How many times we “dress up” with ridicule a certain friend, that particular office mate, even a family member. And we seek to share this ridicule; sometimes gossip might be the only pastime we share with this or that friend group. Let us allow the image of our humiliated Lord vanquish this temptation the next time it comes.
5Bitterness – Luke 13:34
“How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
Hebrews speaks of bitterness as a root that springs up and causes trouble around it. When we are bitter, we are probably lacking in gratitude and piety. The comforting image of Jesus gathering us to him and protecting us from the elements can make the temptation of bitterness flee.
6Negative thoughts – Mark 9:33
“Then they came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent …”
Thoughts can come at us like pesky flies, without us inviting them. But sometimes, we’ll linger with a thought and feed it, allowing or even encouraging it to grow and whirl within us. Too often we give nourishment to negative, pessimistic, critical thoughts of our spouse, our boss, our children, or perhaps most commonly, of our own selves. The disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest as they walked along to Capernaum. Mark adds an interesting detail: Jesus was “in the house” with them when he asked about their conversation. When we’re tempted to give negative thoughts free rein in our minds, let’s not forget that Jesus is there too, listening, accompanying. May his presence overcome the temptation to negativity.