This is an excerpt from a homily given during the rite of election at Holy Rosary Cathedral March 5.
In Matthew’s Gospel account of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, who had one last thing to do before beginning his public ministry. He had to confront Satan openly in the wilderness for 40 days and nights.
As we see, the devil tries to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from his path of sacrifice which leads to his saving Death on the Cross. He tempts him by suggesting false means through which to carry his mission: Wouldn’t he accomplish his mission better, the tempter proposes, if he had economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread? Or if he had a spectacular and miraculous style, like casting himself down from the highest point of the Temple of Jerusalem and being saved by angels? And wouldn’t Jesus be more effective if he took the shortcut of power, which would be his if he worshipped Satan?
Jesus responds to these temptations in his human will through an attitude of radical obedience to God and to his own calling. He could have conquered the devil by divine might, but he chose to face his trial in a human way, in full solidarity with us. He never ceased to be the Son of God, and yet he won this battle as man.
How does Jesus do this? He wins his victory over evil with the Word of God. In responding to Satan, the Lord doesn’t enter into a debate. He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in Paradise. Instead of dialoguing with evil, seeking some kind of compromise with it, he takes refuge in the Word of God.
Likewise, in the battle between good and evil that rages in the world and in the souls of each one of us, we too must take up the Word of God, especially the Gospels, and familiarize ourselves with what Jesus taught and how he lived. We have to find the time, the space and the silence to allow Jesus’ revelation of God’s love as recorded in the Bible to heal us.
Let’s remind ourselves of this in the moments of our temptations: not to argue with Satan, but to defend ourselves from his poisonous arrows with the Word of God.
As Christians we are invited, during the 40 days of Lent, to follow in Jesus’ steps and face the spiritual combat against the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God, which can defeat Satan.
It is, therefore, necessary to take the Bible in hand: to read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it, for it contains the Word of God, which is always timely and effective.
In a recent Angelus address Pope Francis asked, what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our mobile phone? If we always carried it with us, or at least a small pocket Bible, what would happen? If we opened it several times a day; what would happen if we read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read our phone messages?
In fact, if we had the Word of God always in the heart, no temptation would be able to estrange us from God and no obstacle would be able to make us deviate from the path of goodness; we would be able to overcome the daily suggestions of evil that are in us and outside of us.
Dear brothers and sisters, remember that familiarity with the Word of God in Sacred Scripture is essential to your formation as Catholic Christians. It is a powerful weapon through which we can engage in the combat with temptation and overcome evil.