VATICAN CITY -- The 40 days of Lent are a time of spiritual renewal in preparation for Easter, but they also are a time to recognize that evil is at work in the world and even the Catholic Church faces temptations, Pope Benedict XVI said.
The pope explained the meaning of Lent during his weekly general audience on Ash Wednesday.
Like the people of Israel during their 40-year exodus and like Jesus during his 40 days in the desert, the Catholic Church and its members experience the grace of God, but also are besieged by evil around them and are tempted by power and selfishness, the pope said.
Jesus, before beginning his public ministry, withdrew to the desert for 40 days. Fasting, "he nourished himself on the word of God, which he used as a weapon to defeat the devil," the pope said.
Pope Benedict said experience of God's grace and of temptation is not unique to modern Catholics or to the church.