VATICAN CITY, MAR 5, 2006 (VIS) - At midday today, before praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled that Lent began last Wednesday, "and today we celebrate the first Sunday of this liturgical period that encourages Christians to commit themselves on a preparatory journey that leads Easter."
"Today's Gospel," he continued, "reminds us that Jesus, after having been baptized in the River Jordan and moved by the Holy Spirit which descended upon Him and identified Him as the Christ, withdrew to the desert of Judah for 40 days where He overcame the temptations of Satan. Following their Lord and Master, and in order to face with Him 'the struggle against the spirit of evil,' Christians spiritually enter the Lenten desert."
In meditating upon this Gospel passage, said Benedict XVI, "we understand that in order to live fulfilling lives in freedom, it is necessary to overcome the trial that freedom itself brings: in other words, temptation. Only when freed from the slavery of lies and sin can human beings - through obedience to the faith that opens them to truth - discover the full meaning of their lives and achieve peace, love and happiness.
"Precisely for this reason," he went on, "Lent represents an appropriate moment for an attentive examination of life in meditation, prayer and penance." In this context, he mentioned the spiritual exercises which begin this evening in the Vatican and last until next Saturday. They will, he said, "help me and my collaborators in the Roman Curia to enter with greater awareness into this characteristic Lenten atmosphere."
The Pope then called on the faithful to accompany him with their prayers over these days and assured them of his own prayers to the Lord on their behalf, in the hope that "for all Christians Lent may be a moment of conversion and of more courageous commitment to sanctity. To this end, we invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary."
Following the Angelus, Benedict XVI announced that in the Paul VI Hall at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, there will be a Marian vigil organized by Roman university students. Many students from other European and African countries will also participate through radio and television links. "It will be," said the Holy Father, "an appropriate occasion to pray to the Most Holy Virgin that the Gospel may open new channels of communication between the peoples of Europe and of Africa. Dear young people, I hope you will participate in large numbers!"
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