Saturday, November 26, 2011

ARMOR OF GOD FOR SPIRITUAL STRUGGLES

- Fr Dr Paul Kariamadom V.C.

Eph 6:14-17 talks about the armor of God that the faithful have to put on against sin and the wiles of the devil. A Christian warrior sheathed in this armor will be able to resist the devil in the days of evil and stand firm in carrying out his responsibilities. Since the Apostle had lived in the Roman Empire, he knew about the armor the Roman soldiers put on during their fight against the enemies of the Empire.

The Apostle points out that a Christian warrior also needs similar armor in his spiritual struggle.

Here are the powerful words of exhortation:

Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet, put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 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. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph 6:14-17).

 
The Apostle speaks about the armor of the faithful in 1 Thess 5:8 also:
Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. Let us now briefly discuss the various components of the armor.


1. The first thing to be done in putting on the armor of the Christian warrior is fastening the belt of truth. 

One who has fastened his belt is ready for action. One who wears truth as his belt does not have to worry about anything because Jesus himself is the truth. He has said, I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). He was always the yes of the Heavenly Father (2 Cor 1:20).

Jesus came into this world to bear witness to truth (Jn 18:37-38).

He also declared that truth will make one free (Jn 8:32). 

But man feared the Truth and rejected it with sneering ridicule. The apostle makes it clear that the fruits of light appears in virtues, righteousness and truth (Eph 5:9).

When Jesus says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Mt 5:8), he is referring to the people who have dedicated their lives to truth.

The satyagrahas of Mahatma Gandhi were in search of Truth (God). 

When I live an upright life, basing my words and deeds on Truth, I dont have to be worried about any enemy. 

When somebody fastens his belt, he should take a firm determination to say and do the truth.



2. The second exhortation that the Christian warrior gets is to stand firm wearing the breastplate of righteousness.

This exhortation is a call to sanctity.

The most valuable treasure a person can have is a life of righteousness, of purity. 

Jesus came to this world to fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15). 

Pilate and his wife called him a just man (Mt 27: 19, 24).

They did not see any case against him (John 19:4, 6). 

Jesus could ask, Which of you convicts me of sin? (John 8:46). 

The life of Joseph is summed up by saying that he was a righteous man (Mt 1:19).

The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for righteousness sake (Mt 5:10). The apostles take pride in the weapons of righteousness in their right hand and left hand (2 Cor 6:7). The lives of martyrs underline the fact that the righteous are not afraid even of death.

The life of a righteous person stands as a challenge to the sinners.

One who has worn the breastplate of righteousness does not have to fear any adversary. It will always safeguard him. When we put on clothes we should endeavour. to clothe ourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24).



3. Thirdly, the Christian warriors are asked to put on the shoes of readiness for proclaiming the gospel of peace.

Jesus is the Gospel, the Good News.

He is also Peace. Because of that he was able to unite the Jews and Gentiles and break down the dividing wall, the hostility, between them (Eph 2:14).

The ultimate aim of proclaiming the Gospel is to bring about peace among the people, societies, nations and the entire world. The one who has put on the shoes of readiness is the one who is ready to embark on the Gospel voyage. How beautiful are their feet! (Rom 10:15; Is 52:7).

The precious gift they give is peace (Lk 10:5). 

Wasnt the ultimate gift of Jesus also peace? (Jn 20:19). 

His peace is not like the peace given by the world (Jn 14:27).

Real peace comes only when there is tranquility in the different spheres of man external, inner and spiritual. 

Peace is the sum and substance of salvation.

Politicians, however astute they are reputed to be, cant bring about real peace and healing. That is why we see atheistic and agnostic outfits crack and crumble sooner or later. 

Even today the Christian mission is the establishment of peace by trampling over and trouncing the powers of evil through the proclamation of the Gospel. 

Let us wear our shoes of readiness by praying, Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace!



4. Fourthly, we are asked to brandish the shield of faith to quench the flaming arrows of the evil one. 

In the ancient days, during wars, flaming arrows were shot at the enemy to prevent them from advancing and inflict injury.

In Psalm 7:13, we read about the arrows of God being made into fiery shafts. To face the flaming arrows, fiery shafts, combatants used huge shields. They were made of wood and were covered with hides and skins. They were 4 feet in height and 2 feet in breadth. 

The shield of a Christian is his faith. God is the shield of all those that seek refuge in him (Ps 18:30-35).

Faith is seeking refuge in the power of Jesus, the Lord and Saviour

In 1 Pet 5:9, we get the advice to resist Satan by being firm and steadfast in our faith.

In Rom 11:20 also we see the necessity to be steadfast in the faith.

By grace you have been saved through faith (Eph 2:8).

There is no doubt that somebody who is steadfast in his faith can resist any assault of the adversary.

In Heb 11 there are extensive and elaborate descriptions about the great persons that lived and died in glowing faith. The world was not even worthy enough to receive the great people of faith.

Faith, even the size of a mustard seed, has the power to move mountains, great abstacles (Mt 17:20). 

Even today many flaming arrows are shot at us. 

Only with the shield of deep faith can we quench the fiery shafts of impurity, lust, faithlessness, despair, atheism, fanaticism, lack of love and lack of the sense of sin.



5. The fifth exhortation a Christian gets is to don the helmet of salvation.

Salvation is reaching God after getting forgiveness for ones sins. One who has donned the helmet of salvation is secure and safe. Nobody can harm him.

There is no salvation in any one else except in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12).

One who is in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

Jesus means Saviour (Mt 1:21).

It is to that person who receives Jesus joyfully in his house that salvation comes (Lk 19:9).

One who dons the helmet of salvation is the one who experiences this salvation after being forgiven his sins, in sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Getting salvation is the basic and ultimate aim of the life of faith.



6. The sixth item in the armor of the Christian warrior is the sword of the Spirit the Word.

We are very keen on, and enthusiastic about, our physical safety and security.

The weapons for spiritual security are truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word and these constitute the foundation for a spiritual life.

But, unfortunately, we often feel reluctant to carry them with us. One who has this armor on all the time can face any adversary without fear and can march forward joyfully.

Family life in the biblical perspective

- Fr Dr Joseph V.C

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correct-ion, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).

That is why the word of God is accepted by man as the lamp of his feet and a light to his path (Psalm 119:105).

The really lucky man is the one who takes delight in meditating on the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2).

The Lord has compared a man who listens to his word and lives accordingly to the one who built his house on solid rock (Mt 7:24).

The person who lives his personal and social life according to the word of God will never have to feel sorry; his life will never be a failure (Psalm 22:5).

All these references from the Bible which talk about family life should be our guidelines.


IN THE BEGINNING OF CREATION

In the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, there are two descriptions regarding creation (Gen 1:1-2,4; 2:5-25). They are complementary to each other. In these descriptions we can see the basic viewpoints about the relations between a man and a woman.

In the first description, man is given this distinction that he is created in God's own image and in his likeness (Gen 1:26). The image and likeness of God are similar in man and woman. God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen 1:27).

Then God commands them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. This is a command that he gives to the entire mankind men and women.

The Gospelist is presenting the nobility and elevated position of women, in a cultural background where women were considered subservient to men and mere objects of carnal pleasures.


EQUAL PARTNERS

In the second description regarding creation, we can see the man and woman are called upon to be complementary to each other. Man is incomplete by himself. Woman has been created as mans helper and partner (Gen 2:18).

The relationship between man and woman is the most basic of human community. The dawn of a family happens there.
It is God who unites Adam and Eve. That is why traditional Christian theology says that woman-man relationship becomes perfect only when the three of them God, man and woman converge.

The invisible power of God is present in each Christian marriage. When people acknowledge this divine presence and proclaim it in their daily life, marital relations, conjugal harmony, gets built on a solid rock. Couples, then, receive the grace to live in harmony in joy and sorrow, in health and sickness, in riches and poverty.



HOW MARRIAGE AFFECTS OTHER RELATIONSHIPS

With marriage a new relationship is formed in the life of man and woman. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24). The formation of a new family brings changes in the other relationships of the married couples.

Parents should realize that their children are entering a new realm of relationship. In one sense it is a going away. This might be painful to the parents. Only when parents are willing to let the children go, and the children ready to go, a new family will come into being.

This going away is not abandoning.

Honouring ones parents is one of the most important of the commandments.

In the Book of Tobit this has been described very clearly.
Listen to the advice given by Tobit to his son Tobias: Honour your mother and do not abandon her all the days of her life. Do whatever pleases her and do not grieve her in anything. (Tobit 4:3).


 

THE INVIOLABILITY OF MARRIAGE

The man clings to his wife and they become one flesh this is what God had wanted when he created them. Divorce was not there in his scheme of things and this has been taught to us very clearly by the Lord.

In the Old Testament Moses allowed divorce because of the hard-heartedness of the people (Mt 19:8).

But from the beginning it was not so.

The Catholic Church does not allow divorces in the light of the teachings of Jesus (Mt 19:3-12).

St. Paul also stresses the same thing (1 Cor 7:8-16).


THE OBLIGATIONS OF PARENTS TO THEIR CHILDREN

Even as parents pamper their children and fulfill all their material needs, they must be taught to keep the commandments of the Lord and make them walk His paths (Deut 4:4-14, 25-31). Parents have the right to discipline and punish their children (Pro 13:24).

They have the obligation to make the children choose the right vocations and make circumstances conducive for the right choice (Gen 24:1-3).

Maternal love has been presented as the most ideal for love, care and compassion (Is 66:3). The Father watches over the people and forgives their iniquities (Ps 146:9).

Abraham and Sarah have been presented as models of exemplary couples. The parents of Tobit and Samuel are also excellent models for imitation (1 Pet 3:1-6).

The best example of husband-wife relations is the Holy Family of Nazareth where mutual cooperation, love and honour were the watchwords.

The model of the family life presented by Joseph and Mary in Nazareth is the ideal kind of man-woman relationship, beyond carnal cravings, envisaged when the new heaven and new earth become a tangible reality.


OBLIGATIONS OF CHILDREN TOWARDS PARENTS

Honouring ones parents is one of the ten commandments of the Lord. Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you (Exo 20:12).

The phrase Your days may be long in the land should be understood in the background of the promise God gave Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) and the covenant he entered into with the Israelites in the Sinai Mountain (Exo 13:1-20; 15)

Insulting parents and paining them will bring ruin.

The Bible teaches us: The blessing of a father strengthens the houses of the children and a mothers curse uproots their foundations (Sir 3:9).


CONJUGAL RELATIONSHIP

In the New Testament, St. Paul compares the relations between a husband and wife with that of the Lord and the Church (Eph 5:22-23).

Here we get deep insights about family life.

Just like Christ loves the Church, the husband should love his wife.

The Lord had shed his precious blood to make the Church a reality and to nourish it and keep it going. As the Church is subject to the Lord, the wife has to be subject to her husband.

This is not the language of authority or servitude.

It is the language of love, love that ever gives, never demands. The life of Ruth is an excellent example of love between a mother-in-law and a daughter- in-law (Ruth 1:15-18).

Ruth is a Gentile hailing from Moab, but she has etched her name in the Genealogy of Lord Jesus (Mt 1:5) merely because of her loyalty to Naomi.

Even as the Bible gives us examples of exemplary models of family life for us to emulate, we are also shown how families are wrecked and ruined as they forget God and blatantly disobey his commandments (Sir 14:1-3; 16:1-18).



CONCLUSION

The Gospelist has not presented the teachings of the Bible regarding family life as some serially numbered precepts of dos and donts. What we see mostly is symbolic language, with deep meanings.

Symbols have an awesome capacity to present truths in the most penetrating way. Jesus himself taught most of his things by way of parables.

In the New Testament, the Lord elevated husband-wife relation and family life to the status of a sacrament. Sacraments are the means to grow in divine life. That is why the Lord has compared the bliss of heaven to the marriage feast (Rev 19:5-10).

In the Old Testament the people of Israel were symbolically treated as the darling of Jehovah (Hosea 2:1-23: Song 4:1-15). In the New Testament Christ and the Church are looked upon as the bridegroom and the bride.

The Gospelist, inspired by the Holy Spirit, speaks in such loftily figurative ways, using metaphors and symbolism, to teach human beings how God perceives the relationship in family life.

It is the Biblical way of teaching us about the unity, integrity and inviolability of family life.

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