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Feb. 16, 2016

“Dialogue with the devil is impossible because that way he always wins”

At today’s mass celebration in Ecatepec, Francis said “only the power of God’s word” can defeat him. The Pope talked about “wealth, vanity and pride, the three temptations for the Christian” and Lent, as a time to overcome the seduction of money, fame and power. “God has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power”. At the Angelus, he invited Mexicans to “be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities”

Francis celebrates mass in the Mexican city of Ecatepec.

Setting aside the homily text, Francis began: “If we recall the words we heard in the Gospel, Jesus does not respond to the devil with his own words but with God’s words, the words of the Scriptures. We should get this into our heads: it is impossible to have a dialogue with the devil. Because he will always win. Only the power of God’s word can defeat him.” He went on to say that wealth, vanity and pride are the “three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily,” three temptations which “seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel”. Today Francis celebrated mass at Ecatepec, which is the nàhuatl language means “windy hill”, a city on the outskirts of Mexico City, inhabited mostly by commuters who work in the federal capital. Over 300,000 people gathered in the rural space of the local Study Centre. People had waited outside in the freezing cold all night to attend the Pope’s mass. To enter, they had to present tickets which were distributed free of charge by the local Episcopal Conference. However, fewer than the requested amount were made available. Angelica, an elderly woman with a brown woollen poncho wrapped around her was still shivering. “In my parish of Toluca which is three hours from here,” she said, “they only handed out 100 of them. But now we’re here and we’re happy!”

The stage was huge, with a big metal cross set in a square wooden structure. In front of it was an enormous decorative carpet with floral and animal motifs, typical of the indigenous tradition, printed on a black background. The carpet was created from different pieces made by a group of artisans.The Gospel of the day described Jesus’ temptations in the desert. After reminding faithful that Lent “is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel beloved sons and daughters of the Father," the Pope explained: Our Father, he is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an 'only child'. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is 'Our Father', not 'my father' or 'your stepfather'."

“But this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society. A society of the few, and for the few.” “How often,” Francis recalled, “we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often – and it pains me to say it – have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.”

“Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us.”

The first is wealth, “seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for “my own people”. That is, taking the “bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.”

The second temptation “is vanity the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who 'are not like me'. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the 'reputation' of others.”

The third is pride, or rather, “putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not
share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have
not made me like those others…” “Three temptations of Christ… Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.”

“To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?” the Pope asked. “How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth? To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?”

“We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one,” Francis explained. “We want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power.” The Pope asked faithful to repeat the words of the Psalm “You are my God and in you I trust” together.

At the Angelus at the end of the ceremony, Francis added: “I invite you once again today to be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.”

The Pope lunched at the diocesan seminary of Ecatepec before setting off by helicopter to Mexico City in the afternoon. Here, he paid a visit the “Federico Gómez” childrens' hospital.

Pope Francis asked seminarians in the diocese of Ecatepec to pray to God about their future mission, while also ensuring they do not become “clerics of the state”. The Pope used this phrase in an inscription he left in the guestbook at the Ecatepec seminary after celebrating mass.

Before going to Ecatepec, Pope Francis went out of the Nunciature in Mexico City to greet the crowds, stopping to embrace some wheelchair-bound sick people. Then, on the way to “Campo Marte”, a military heliport, the Pope stopped the Popemobile so he could get out and greet a group of cloistered nuns who were stood in front of their monastery.