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Pope: Never Dialogue with the Devil

To begin a new series of catechesis on the virtues and vices, Pope Francis spoke about the necessity of understanding the dynamics of evil and temptation and why it is so important to guard the heart against the wiles of Satan.

The pope began his Wednesday audience by explaining how evil first appeared amidst the perfect beauty of the garden of Eden as a character who will become a symbol of evil – the serpent.

“The snake is an insidious animal: it moves slowly, slithering along the ground, and sometimes you do not even notice its presence – it is silent – because it manages to camouflage itself well in its environment, and above all, this is dangerous.”

When it begins to converse with Adam and Eve, it shows that it is also a “refined dialectician,” the Pope continues. “It begins as one does with wicked gossip, with a malicious question. He says, ‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ (Gen 3:1). The phrase is false: in reality, God offered man and woman all the fruits of the garden, apart from those of a specific tree: the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

This prohibition was not intended to forbid man the use of reason as is sometimes misinterpreted, the Pope explains, but is actually a measure of wisdom. It is as if God is saying to Adam and Eve, “recognize your limit, do not feel you are the master of everything, because pride is the beginning of all evil.”

God wants to preserve them from any presumption of omnipotence, from thinking themselves to be the masters of good and evil, “which is a temptation – a bad temptation, even now. This is the most dangerous pitfall for the human heart,” the pope said.

But, as we all know, Adam and Eve did not resist the temptation of the serpent who insinuated into their minds the idea that God just wanted to keep them in submission to him. In this account, the Bible shows us that evil does not begin in man in a noisy way when an act is already in process, but begins much earlier, “when one begins to fantasize about it, to nurse it in the imagination, thoughts, and ends up being ensnared by its enticements,” he explains. Only after the devil planted ideas into the minds of Adam and Eve did they fall.

“One must never dialogue, brothers and sisters, with the devil. Never! You should never argue,” the pope warned. “Jesus never dialogued with the devil; He cast him out. And when in the wilderness, [with] the temptations, He did not respond with dialogue; He simply responded with the words of Holy Scripture, with the Word of God. Be careful: the devil is a seducer. Never dialogue with him, because he is smarter than all of us and he will make us pay for it.”

Instead, when temptation comes, we should, “Close the door, close the window, close your heart," the pope advised. "And so, we defend ourselves against this seduction, because the devil is astute, intelligent. He tried to tempt Jesus with quotes from the Bible! He was a great theologian there. With the devil you do not dialogue. Do you understand this? Be careful. We must not converse with the devil, and we must not entertain ourselves with temptation. There is no dialogue. Temptation comes, we close the door. We guard our heart.”

He concludes by stressing the importance of guarding the heart. “This is the recommendation – guard the heart – that we find in various fathers, saints: guard the heart. Guard the heart. And we must ask for this grace of learning to guard the heart. It is a form of wisdom, how to guard the heart. May the Lord help us [in] this work. But he who guards his heart, guards a treasure. Brothers and sisters, let us learn to guard the heart.”

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