Rev. Mr. Roger J. Landry
Pontifical North American College
Wednesday of the 30th Week of Ordinary Time, Year II
October 21, 1998
Eph 6:1-9; Lk 13:22-30
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather the sword!” (Luke 12:51)
The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything, a time for peace and a time for war. In the readings today from St. Paul and St. Luke, the Church reminds us that the time we’re engaged in, this time between Calvary and the Parousia, is a time of WAR.
And how timely this message is!
As Peter Kreeft tells us in a recent article, to win any war, the three most necessary things to know are:
(1) that you are at war;
(2) who your enemies are;
(3) what weapons or strategies can defeat them.
All three questions are answered by St. Paul in today’s first reading.
First, we have to realize that we are indeed engaged in a war, a war with great stakes. St. Paul was well aware of this, because he was on the front lines, and writes his letter, in fact, in chains as a POW. With a fire and clarity that would make even Norman Schwarzkopf jealous, he reminds God’s troops in Ephesus of this fact and even prescribes what their battle fatigues should be, from their helmets to their shoes. And his words didn’t have an expiration date — and they are perhaps more important now than they were then.
Christians today might ask Paul, “But isn’t the battle already won? Didn’t Jesus conquer sin and death once and for all on Calvary?” Yes he did, thanks be to God. The only thing left to be determined is the amount of casualties. And as long as too many of our contemporaries remain convinced that there is no battle at all, that all of us are basically guaranteed heaven no matter what we do — and hence see no reason to fight — then these casualties will likely mount. Hopefully it will not take the spiritual equivalent of a Pearl Harbor to get us to declare war on an enemy that has already declared war on us.
Secondly, we have to be clear about who our enemies are. St. Paul says that “our battle ultimately is not against human forces, but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above.” In other words, our battle is ultimately not against faithful Protestants, Jews, or Muslims, or liberals, Lefevrists, ICEL, homosexuals, radical feminists, cafeteria Catholics, Masons, abortionists, Ken Starr, Bill or even Hillary Clinton. No. Our battle is against the devil — and the devil exists, roaring like a lion, going throughout the world seeking to devour souls. Jesus was indeed fighting these very devils in today’s Gospel and casting them out. After Jesus and the inauguration of the time of grace, the only chance the devil has to win any skirmishes at all is if he can get traitors from the other side. And he often does. And WE are those traitors whenever we give in to his temptations and to sin.
This brings me to the third and last point. Once we know that we’re at war and who are enemies are, we need to know what weapons and strategies can defeat them. St. Paul is again clear. For weapons he tells us to “put on the armor of God,” the same armor that Jesus and Paul both wore. This armor consists of truth as our belt, justice our breastplate, zeal for the gospel our shoes, faith our shield, salvation our helmet, and the word of God our sword. And these six pieces of war raimant are not random metaphors:
• truth should envelop up as a belt;
• justice should indeed cover our lungs and heart, so that we breath it and beat in union with it;
• zeal for the Gospel should be our footgear, so that we can and will walk in Jesus’ footsteps, for if we’re not going forward we’re retreating;
• strong, inpregnable faith should be our shield for it and it alone will be our last line of defense against the fiery darts of lies and scandals;
• salvation should be the helmet protecting our head lest we lose our mind and die;
• and the word of God should our sword, our offense, for if we’re not preaching the word of God, our lance will be dull in both senses of the term.
These are our weapons. Our strategy is simple. As Paul counsels, we should “pray in the Spirit at every opportunity, using prayers and petitions of every sort.” And that’s what we’re here to do now. United around this altar, we’re about to lift up the greatest prayer ever made to the thrice holy Dominus Deus Sabaoth, literally, the Lord, God of the Armies, and receive our battle rations, our General’s own body and blood, shed on the field of victory for us.
Fed by that food and clad in God’s armor, let us march onward, Christian soldiers!