ROME – On Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about the temptations encountered in the Christian life, encouraging faithful not to be discouraged by the struggle, but to be reassured and strengthened by the prayers of the Church.
“It is difficult to fight against evil, to escape from its deceptions, to regain strength after a tiring struggle, but we must know that all of Christian life is a battle,” the pope said April 25.
“But we must also know that we are not alone, that the Mother Church prays so that her children, regenerated in Baptism, do not succumb to the snares of the evil one. Strengthened by the Risen Lord, who defeated the prince of this world, we too can repeat with the faith of St. Paul: ‘I can do all things in him who strengthens me,’” he said.
At his Wednesday general audience, Francis continued his reflections on the sacrament of Baptism – including its power over the evil of sin and the hope that Christians gain through the prayers of others and through membership in the Catholic Church.
We know from personal experience how easily, even in the Christian life, we are tempted to separate ourselves from God, “from his will, from communion with him, to fall back into the bonds of worldly seductions,” Francis said.
Baptism is not a “magic formula, but a gift of the Holy Spirit,” he continued, emphasizing that it “prepares us, gives us strength for this daily struggle, even the struggle against the devil who – as St. Peter says – like a lion tries to devour us, to destroy us.”
Quoting from the Rite of the Baptism of Children, he said the sacrament enables “those who receive it to fight against the spirit of evil believing that God has sent his Son into the world to destroy the power of Satan and transfer man from darkness into his kingdom of infinite light.”
Another important aspect of the sacrament, the pope noted, is that one never goes to the baptismal font to receive Baptism alone but is always accompanied by the prayers of the entire Church, as can be heard in the litany of the saints.
The prayers of the Church are always active, he said, encouraging those present to enter into this prayer, praying for the people of God and for those in need.
In the Baptism of adults, following the litany of the saints the prayer of exorcism and the pre-baptismal anointing with the oil of the catechumens takes place.
These are gestures, Francis said, which since ancient times have assured those preparing to be baptized that the prayer of the Church assists them “in the fight against evil, accompanies them on the path of good, helps them to escape the power of sin to pass into the kingdom of divine grace.”
This is one reason that, for adult catechumens, the path includes repeated prayers of exorcism pronounced by the priest, he said. These prayers call for the liberation of the person from everything which separates him or her from Christ, preventing intimate union with him.
After his catechesis on Baptism, Francis made several comments about the upcoming Inter-Korean Summit, which will take place April 27 in Panmunjeom, the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area.
It will be attended by both the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and marks the first inter-Korean summit in eleven years. The intended focus of the summit is the North Korean nuclear weapons program and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting will be a good opportunity to begin a “transparent dialogue and concrete path of reconciliation… in order to guarantee peace in the Korean Peninsula and in the whole world,” the pope said.