Ephesians 6:12-18 – Be renewed … Clothe yourself
When I was studying Scripture in Rome after my ordination to the priesthood, a text in the Bible that has set me thinking big time was Ephesians 6:12-18. It set me thinking because the text implies that Christian life is a battle; Christian life deals in is warfare. Why has it got to be so? Yes, true, Jesus has said: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Mt 10:34). Let’s say the text from Ephesians comes from someone as Jesus-crazy as Saint Paul. He writes:
|“12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14 Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
15 As sandals for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints”.
The belt of truth around your waist
Shoes/sandals for your feet
The sword of the Spirit
The shield of faith + the breastplate of righteousness
The helmet of salvation
Now, let me also read the account of the First Passover in Exodus 12:1-11:
|1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household….
6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight.
7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it…
11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the Lord.
Sandals on your feet
Staff in your hand
The blood on the two doorposts
(going through a doorway, the doorposts are on your sides, like a breastplate and a shield [the thureós in Ephesians 6:16 was a large, oblong stone used to close an entrance doorway – thúra = door; later, shield]) and the lintel of the houses (above your head, like the helmet).
What is this? Is St Paul in the text from Ephesians saying that equipping the soldiers of God for the Christian battle is a Passover?
Is this your equipping for your calling as a Christian? Is this your Passover?
Passover from what? Passover to what?
What could be some of those ashes that have settled and hidden that spark in my soul? What habits, attitudes, perspectives, persons, even, need to change in order that God can unleash the fullness of his Spirit that we are now waiting for in me? In you, especially, as a Christian after the heart of God. That’s the only Christian that counts. That’s the only Christian that the Church needs. A short checklist: could this layer of ashes be self-centredness, self-absorption, self-preoccupation, my plans, my way, my preferences, my ideas, my comfort, my future, my my my. Could it be activism? Activism is taking on more than what God himself gives us. Heaping projects upon projects, but really producing dead works. No lasting spiritual fruit, really. Activism takes away the needed time for a serious prayer life. And so we fall into dead works. Could those ashes be the picking and choosing of where we are offering our life on the altar of life: picking and choosing the altar where we serve God. Sometimes we can really pick and choose, we can really lay down our life for God to consume it on his altar, but we pick and choose which altar on which we want to give our life to God. Protagonism? “I must decrease so that He can increase” (John 3:30). The Messiah syndrome is a real temptation. We tend to forget that it is sheer grace that keeps us going. Unbelief? I believe that we’d better use unbelief than lack of faith. We have all sorts of manifestations of our faith but we lack belief. We refuse to believe that God is who he says he is. And we refuse to believe he does what he says he will do. Do we have to brush away the layer of ashes of unbelief to allow the spark of the divine grace to be set ablaze in our lives? The spark of the divine grace to be set ABLAZE in our life! Why be a flicker when we can be ablaze for the Lord? It’s about time we set aside our mediocrity, which is not a virtue, and to say categorically: no flicker; I want to be a blazing fire. The enemy of our souls can set around us a fence of presumed self-defence to keep us locked in apathy, in discouragement, half-heartedness, and a minimalist approach in our apostolate.
From complacency, lethargy, apathy, just surfing along with the currents of life
to a life of zeal, full of fire for the Lord and fellow people
From proclaiming a dead letter Word of God
to proclaiming a Word that is full of fire?
From a life of mediocrity, half measures, maybe, superficiality
to a life worth living, to a life full of deep-seated joy that you cannot explain but that you feel as if it were the fire in the bones of Jeremiah? “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9)?
From receiving the Sacraments as if they were run of the mill biscuits
to sharing the very grace of God in these prophetic gestures!
In this context, let me quote what Mgr Joseph De Piro, the Maltese founder of the Missionary Society of St Paul had to say about what the Holy Spirit does in us. In one sermon on Pentecost:
“Observe the effects that the Holy Spirit produced in the apostles: he made them … think differently from before. The same effects are also produced in us: we would have new thoughts and different sentiments in our heart”.
In another sermon he said: “Pentecost gave rise to new ideas that changed the face of the earth … It was a Sunday, the day in which the Jews celebrated Pentecost, the handing down of the Law on Mount Sinai. That law was being replaced by a new one ... They also saw tongues of fire: fire … changes everything that it burns”.
Is this the Gift of the Holy Spirit, the New Life that we are now awaiting as fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection?
- Because the sword of God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit.
- Boldness is a gift of the Spirit: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31); “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11).
- Is joy fruit of the Spirit? “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13); “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23); and in the very first writing of the New Testament: “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).
Listen to Saint Paul himself, offering to us what he himself was fired with:
|“You were taught to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and to clothe yourselves with the new self,
created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”