Ephesians 6:13-17
“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
In our second reading from Romans today, St. Paul tells us to put on the armor of light. Well, that is a shorthand for the entire armor of God that he mentions very clearly in Ephesians which I just quoted.
There are a number of points to make regarding this “armor of God.” First, not a bit of it is intended for your back. This is important for two different reasons. First, and most importantly, we are supposed to always be moving forward toward the holiness of God, and fighting through the temptations of the devil that try to hold us back.
Second, if we are stuck in a spiritually defensive battle, we should be able to rely on our brothers and sisters in Christ to have our backs, to be able to stand with us as we fight the fight, spiritually, that God puts before us. That is one of the primary points of the Sacrament of Confession. I and my brother priests have your backs, spiritually.
Second, God has intended us to be armed and ready to do battle, spiritual battle, for the sake of our souls, and those around us, especially in our families. This part of our walk with Jesus is not an option.
I would point out to you another important thing: while Isaiah talks about turning swords into plowshares, there is another prophet, Joel, in the Old Testament, who tells us we need to be ready to turn our plowshares into swords. We hear the report from Isaiah far more often than we hear from Joel. But it would be a mistake not to recognize that there are times when we need to take up the battle for the sake of souls.
What does all this mean? I think, to start, it is important to look at each of the items of armor that St. Paul tells us about. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Our loins are to be girded in truth. For those of you who don’t know, that means what are often called our “private parts”. We are to cover the most intimate part of our body with truth! Truth is meant to be closest to us.
Our breastplate, our chest, to protect our heart, we are to be clothed with righteousness. Being closest to our heart, I think, means that righteousness is the most important virtue in the eyes of God! Stop to think about that for just a moment. (Pause.)
To cover our feet, we are to be ready to share the gospel of peace. This means we need to be ready to go wherever, however, whenever to share the gospel with those who need to know that Jesus is the King of Kings, Lord of lords, and Prince of Peace.
We are to hold our faith as a shield in front of us. In those days, the shield was the most important defensive weapon that soldier carried. It was also an offensive weapon. It was his life. So faith in Jesus is our life. Faith is what will dispel temptation, or as Paul put it the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Next he talks about the helmet of salvation. Again, this is a protective piece of armor. We are meant to know that salvation is ours in Jesus Christ. Do you see the connection: helmet – head – know? The helmet of salvation: we are meant to KNOW that it is ours.
And lastly, we are to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God! We are to have ready in our hands, ready to use, ready to interject the message of the gospel which comes to us through the word of God. This is how the Spirit works in us.
This is the armor of God. Here on this first weekend of the new year, yes the start of the new church year, we are reminded to put on the armor of light. We are reminded that it is not a weapon of physical war. We are reminded from the gospel that we need to be constantly on the watch. One will be taken, one will be left.
And, as a side note, the one who is taken is not a follower of God. How do I know that? Jesus said to compare this “one will be taken” to Noah. Noah and his family were the only ones left! They were following God. So the ones who were taken are not followers of God.
Unless we are armed with salvation and faith, the gospel of peace, righteousness, and truth, we will not stand before God. We will not be ready for when the Lord comes.
I once saw a child dressed in this kind of armor on Halloween. While it was cute, I hope his parents understood what they were presenting to him, and that they took it seriously for themselves.
Lord Jesus, we are in a spiritual battle. Each one of us faces temptations every day. It is only with your help, your armor, that we have the ability to stand against the fiery arrows of the enemy.
Help us to stand ready for the sake of the witness to the gospel. Not only do we ask that you dress us in this armor; but that you equip us with your wisdom and knowledge. These battles are not battles that we can afford to lose. They are battles for souls, our own and others.
Help us to defend the Church. Help us to defend your people. And, when we get wounded spiritually, help us to find someone who can bring us your healing touch. Give us the valor in this season to seek out the help we need. That we may be courageous and strong in the ways of your holiness. Amen.