Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ephesians 2:1-2 (part three)

You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived, following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Last time we took a brief look at our supernatural enemy – Satan -- and some strategies he uses to imprison us and (if possible) drag us with him to an eternal hell. We also saw how God has not left us defenseless. This lesson (and the one or two that follow) will review those defenses – defenses that can be summed up in St. Paul's words to the Christians at Ephesus in Ephesians 6. It will be helpful if you review that section before moving on with this lesson.

Now let’s look at each piece of the armor in turn.

First in the Christian's armor are the "loins girded with [the belt of] truth." The Roman soldier’s belt kept his chain armor – and everything else attached to the belt -- in place. Without the belt, the soldier’s armor would flap around during the battle and expose him to the enemy. Likewise, Jesus said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life” (St. John 14:6). And St. Paul tells us the Church is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Without our "belt of truth" tied properly around us, we expose ourselves to the deadly, “flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). That exposure will render us susceptible to great -- and possibly mortal -- injury through false teachings and heresies.

Next, is the breastplate of righteousness. Scripture declares Jesus has "become to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). And as the Catechism reminds us, our righteousness is rooted squarely and solely in Christ’s work on Calvary, effected to us by faith, baptism, conversion and the Sacraments, especially of baptism, the Eucharist and of Penance. For example, see here, here, here and here. Just as one would not dare enter a battle without his breastplate, so the Christian ought never be without the protection of Christ’s righteousness.

Next, we find the feet "shod with the preparation of the gospel." Roman soldiers’ shoes were designed to provide not only a good grip on the soil so the soldier wouldn’t slip during hand-to-hand combat, but also be comfortable and sturdy enough for long marches. Likewise, the Christian's armor includes a firm and sturdy foundation for the life-long journey as we engage in one spiritual battle after another. What is that foundation? The Church teaches our foundation rests on three primary principles – the Sacraments, the Scriptures and Supplication (prayer). I call them the Three Ss. (We looked at them a few lessons ago).

Then there is the “shield of faith which will extinguish all the flaming missile of the evil one.”
The Roman shield was rectangular and about as tall as the soldier. He could use it while wielding his sword or he could crouch behind it to protect himself from arrows and spears. Also, before a battle, soldiers soaked their shields in water, which aided in extinguishing any flaming arrows shot at them by the enemy.

And what is the Christian’s shield of faith? Scripture brims with promises that ought to be sufficient shielding against Satan's lies, even for the most faint-hearted among us. For starters: God will never leave us or forsake us; Jesus' death redeemed us (notice, this is past tense -- it is already accomplished) from the power of Satan; we always receive forgiveness when we make good confessions; our heavenly Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus . And God’s word is a pure mirror which, as St. Paul wrote to Timothy -- and St. Peter wrote to the Church -- is vital for our spiritual strength and safety.

These pieces of armor are a lot to consider for now, so next time we will look at the last few critically important pieces. Until then, consider the following questions.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Verse 12 of Ephesians 6 reminds us: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

You and I do not have a choice about joining this battle. It has already come to us. And it is already wounding and killing people all around us. But we do have a choice how we will prepare for the fight. What is your plan? (Remember, ignoring the battle is still a plan).

2. The Sacrament of Confession is a key to our righteousness before God. Confession, of course, implies a decision to not only repent of that sin but also to avoid situations and circumstances that tempt you to commit that sin in the future. Identify one sin that easily trips you up. Now, what will you do about it?


Studentof theTruth said...

Dear Contemplative Convert,
Serious seekers and faithful followers of the Catholic faith could at least be well on the way to immediately recognizing the direct, inseparable connection between the deadness referred to in Ephesians 2:1-2 and the capital sin of sloth, also known as acedia. The cardinal sin of sloth is one of the seven deadly sins first incorporated into a list of eight evil thoughts, recorded by a monk named Evagrius Ponticus and later revised by Pope Gregory I, who reduced the list to seven deadly sins by removing Tristitia (Latin for sorrow) as a separate issue and deciding it to be another characteristic embedded in or in some other way related to laziness.

Studentof theTruth said...

When we first think of deadness, it may be in regard to a listless, numbed-out participation in things we may *objectively* know are sinful, but that we have no good or adverse feeling about at any level. It's the sense that, good or bad according to a mere *list* of vices or virtues, what I either do or fail to do just doesn't seem to necessarily matter. Perhaps, in other words, it just doesn't seem to make any difference as far as I can see; therefore, at least inwardly, I just kind of shrug and carry on.

Studentof the Truth said...

Consider, also, however, that there can possibly be a difference between social and emotional indifference and spiritual indifference. I have considered this in reference to Revelation 3, starting with verse 14, which gives a warning to the Church of Laodicea, the "lukewarm" congregation to whom the Lord said, "I am about to spit you out of my mouth...for you say 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything...'" Here is a question that perhaps none of us can afford to be ignorant of: How incredibly important do you honestly believe becoming and remaining Catholic really is? Is your social life, your emotional life, too "rich" for you to believe that it matters? Would you base your answer to that question only on how positive, negative, profound or superficial any relationship(s) you may have to non-Catholics are?

Richard Maffeo said...

I suspect that is part of the deadness St. Paul speaks of in this passage. Regardless of whether one is spiritually dead or just doesn't care about God or His commandments, that person's only hope for forgiveness and heaven is a "quickening" by the Holy Spirit to breathe life into him or her.

Richard Maffeo said...

Sorry, I do not understand your comment here:

"Would you base your answer to that question only on how positive, negative, profound or superficial any relationship(s) you may have to non-Catholics are?"

Please clarify.

Studentof theTruth said...

Oops, sorry - I had to break up what is actually my lengthy, now-I'm-on-a-roll response into several sections since sending everything in one post doesn't work on here. :) I maybe should have tried to communicate that the first time.
I have some more coming and will reveal my real name at the very end, also. :)

Richard Maffeo said...

Student, are you suggesting here that non-Catholic Christians are not going to heaven?

You wrote in part: So, as far as I am concerned, there's a place in Heaven for them - if I'm going, they're going . . .

Richard Maffeo said...

Yikes!!! I am having a very hard time following your thoughts because of all the posts . . . most of which semm to be coming out of order and not responding to my questions. May I suggest you send me an email to richmaffeobooks@gmail.com so I can make better sense of what you are saying. I know it is important, but I am missing a lot here.