Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ephesians 2:1-2 (part four)

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)

In part three of this lesson on spiritual armor we looked at the Christian soldier’s belt, breastplate, shoes and shield. Today we will look at the last two parts of our armor St. Paul spoke of – the sword and prayer: And take the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit . . . (Ephesians 6:17,18)

St. Jerome warned, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” To that, I add, "To be ignorant of Scripture is also to be ignorant of Satan’s tactics and how to defeat his assault against us and those we love.”

And that is a very serious danger.

The Church teaches much about the Word of God. For example, see here, here and here. Furthermore, the writer to the Hebrews tells us, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” The Lord Jesus said to Satan, during the Temptation in the wilderness, “Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4); And St. John tells us that it is through the word of God we “overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:13-14).

In fact, the Roman soldier’s sword was the only offensive weapon in his arsenal. And it (along with Christian prayer) is our offensive weapon as well. King Solomon wrote: If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength (Ecclesiastes 10:10). Which means to me, if we do not have a well-honed sword we will have to work harder at both defense and offense.

So, how does one sharpen his or her sword? Scripture gives us abundant advice. “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it (Joshua 1:8). Or here in the Psalms. Or St. Peter, or St. Paul.

Did you know if you read only two chapters of the Old Testament each morning (about 10 minutes) and two chapters of the New Testament each evening (about 10 minutes) you will read the entire Old Testament in a bit more than 13 months, and the New Testament three times in a year? That means for the person who makes a habit of honing his or her sword, in five years he or she will have read the Old Testament nearly five times and the New fifteen times. That’s a lot of sharpening.

And finally (if there really can be a final word about our armor and the battle), prayer is an absolutely essential element in our warfare.

Of prayer, the Church has much to say on the subject. Here are only a few paragraphs: here, here, here, here and here. St. Francis Xavier Cabrini wrote: We must pray without tiring, for the salvation of mankind does not depend on material success; nor on sciences that cloud the intellect. Neither does it depend on arms and human industries, but on Jesus alone.

St. Ephraem wrote, Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven.

In a Dan Rather interview with Mother Teresa, Mr. Rather asked her what she says to God when she prays.

"I don't say anything," Mother Teresa said. "I just listen."
Mr. Rather then asked what God says to her.
"He doesn't say anything," she responded. "He just listens."

In his book, Time for God, Fr. Jacques Philippe writes, “No one ever starved to death because he didn’t have enough time to eat.” Yet, many a Catholic is spiritually anemic and weak for the battle because they think they don’t have time to pray.

It's an old adage, but quite true: We have time for the things we consider important. Satan fears a strengthened Christian adversary, so he willl convince us to leave our spiritual armor hanging in the closet, and to avoid things that will make us more formidable foes -- things like faithful participation in the Sacraments, Scripture study and prayer.

We know what we should do. St. Jerome, pray for us that our God will help us to do it with persistence.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Can you find 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening for Bible reading? Can you find an additional 15 minutes a day for prayer? You might have to sacrifice something else to make the time. What will it be?

2. Is there a Bible study activity going on at your parish? If so, can you find time to join it? If there isn't one, perhaps your pastor, deacon (or another member of the parish designated by your pastor) would begin one if asked.

No comments: