By Thaddeus Jones
Pope Francis welcomed pilgrims attending his General Audience in the Paul VI Hall on this Wednesday, just two days after Christmas.
His catechesis opened a new series looking at the virtues and the vices opposed to them with an introduction on safeguarding the heart.
The pitfall of pride
Beginning with Scripture, the Pope looked at how the Book of Genesis presents the dynamic of evil and temptation as recounted in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The snake, a hidden and slow-moving creature, represents the danger of temptation and sin.
The snake begins to converse with Adam and Eve and does so by sowing gossip and doubts in their minds about God's intentions and care for them, with trick questions about the tree of the garden and whether they could really eat of its fruit or not, even though prohibited by God, the Pope recounted.
The prohibition on eating from this tree of the knowledge of good and evil marked a "measure of wisdom," the Pope explained, and not a restriction in the use of reason but a way to help understand that there are human limits and that we are not omnipotent.
The temptation to want to be masters of good and evil is a problem even today, he pointed out, and "the most dangerous pitfall for the human heart." These stirrings of sin can threaten "our closeness to the Lord and our obedience to his loving plan for our lives."
The story of Adam and Eve shows that they did not manage to resist the temptation of the serpent, who sowed doubts in their minds about God, and they caved into them, leading to the collapse of their harmonious life in Eden, said the Pope.
So, evil did not enter human life in a clamorous way, the Pope observed, but slowly and subtly through thoughts, nurturing doubts, and giving into them to finally being ensnared by its enticements.
On alert to the wiles of the devil
The Pope emphasized that the devil, tempting us to do evil, tries to draw us away from God through cunning and astuteness, and that we must never, ever dialogue with him.
He pointed out that Jesus never dialogued with the devil; he cast him out. In the desert, where Jesus was tempted by the devil, he did not dialogue but simply responded with the words of Scripture, the Word of God.
When faced with temptation, we close the door to it, he underscored, saying here there can be no dialogue; we must watch over our hearts.
Watching over the heart
In conclusion, the Pope recommended we watch over our hearts, following the example of the saints as well.
May we all ask for God's grace to help us learn this practice, he said, the wisdom of guarding the treasure of our hearts with the Lord's help, always there by our side.