ROME — Moving closer to Christ means facing daily struggles against temptation and battling against evil, Pope Francis said.
When Jesus approaches the people who have come to hear him and be healed, “the unclean spirits try to stop him, they wage war,” which is why those who seek to follow the Lord will face obstacles too, the pope said on January 19 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
Looking at the day’s Gospel reading from Mark (3:7-12), the pope said it is “curious” how the passage ends with the unclean spirits shouting at Jesus, “You are the son of God,” after describing the enthusiasm and large number of people who came to see, hear and be healed by Jesus.
“This is the truth. This is the reality that each one of us feels when Jesus approaches,” he said, referring to the presence and persistence of evil.
People who say they never experience temptation, he said, are “not Christian; they are ideological, gnostic.” Gnosticism reflects an idea that a select elite can develop special powers and gifts through specialized knowledge that is hidden from most people.
When God draws people toward Jesus, there is someone else — the devil — who pulls them the other way “and he wages a war within you,” the pope said. “This is why Paul talks about Christian life as a battle, a daily battle.”
Jesus came to win this battle, “to destroy Satan, to destroy his influence on our hearts,” the pope said.
People must choose: Do they want a comfortable, easy and quiet life, the pope asked, or will they let their heart “feel the battle” and help Jesus be victorious?
“Let us think about how our heart is. Do I feel this battle in my heart” and the desire to serve, pray, praise the Father and do what is good, the pope said, or is there “something that stops me” and distracts with temptations of comfort or entertainment?