Sunday, November 13, 2011

Armistice and Armour

Epistle for Trinity XXI: Ephesians vi.10

In the view of many people, we are in dark times, another depression caused by so many factors, economic, ecological and spiritual. It is true that it is only by the grace of God Himself that there is any happiness in the world. All that human beings seem to do is struggle. As biologists have noted, all life is struggle: we struggle to be born and we have to fight to stay alive. There is no escaping it. But what about for us humans? What reason have we to fight to stay alive? Why do we have to struggle, labour and toil, agonise and shout. We clearly do, but for what reason? Isn't it time that we stopped fighting and just went with the flow? Isn't it easier than just working ourselves to death for no better reason than pass on our genes and die? Eat, drink and be merry...

St Paul reminds us that humanity is constantly at war, but often forgets who the real enemy is.In most cases we wrongly identify the enemy, eliminate him and then think that our job is done. Surely the world will be a better place now that Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi have gone? Well, do we know who the monster of tomorrow will be? We can be sure that there will be another!

What we fail to see is that, in identifying evil with an organisation or a person, we're missing the fact that evil is a lot less material than we might like. Evil is non-material. It exists in principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritually infests the high places of humanity.

While we can be sure that someone will make a choice to live life in such a way as to recruit followers who then spread evil in the cause of some "liberation" and thus become a figure of hate, we can fail to see this evil at work in our own society and crucially within our very selves. Can it be that the Western milieu is being unfairly forced on people who are no less human but have rather different views on how society works? Is it possible? Surely we need to look at ourselves closely to see what rule we impose upon others.

If evil exists, then it is the Christian's duty to oppose it in all its forms. We therefore will see battle both physical and spiritual. We will see things that will disgust us and haunt us all the days of our lives. We will be attacked and injured, sometimes physically. Indeed, some of us will fight and will lose our lives: our martyrologies are filled with such as these.

For what do our soldiers fight these days? What makes their cause any more just than their opponents? If we look at the First World War then the answer is not so clear. It seems more like a campaign of Imperial Honour spun wildly out of control. Yet, for the Second World War, there is much more of an objective. Surely, there is no moral society on Earth which could believe that the Concentration Camps were anything other than the foulest recesses of human evil? Can we honestly say that humanity is unanimous in this judgment? Why not?

The Evil we fight is not material. It does not possess an identifiable face, but yet it influences men who are prepared to go along with its flow rather than take a stand against it, actively searching for what is right and making their protests heard against what is wrong. It is the duty of the Christian to fight this non-material Evil and to rescue his brother from its clutches. However, if we are exposed to evil and its lure from the moment of our conception and find that we ourselves aren't just capable of doing evil, but do in fact do evil, what hope have we as soldiers?

St Paul reminds us that we have been given protection by God with which to arm ourselves. First he give us the Truth with which we examine ourselves, identify those vulnerable and weak areas which we then can protect with that same Truth. Our hearts are to be covered in God's Righteousness. How? By taking into ourselves the practice of righteousness through the works of mercy and charity. In that way we fill our hearts unequivocally with righteous living and make them more like the Sacred Heart.

Our feet are given protection by the Gospel which directs their way and carries us forward in our lives to God Himself. These same feet are made beautiful by transmitting that same Gospel and thus there is great strength being passed on to others who need it. We are responsible for helping others be clothed with the armour of Christ.

The enemy can fire at us from any quarter and thus we need a shield that is strong and tough enough, unyielding enough to prevent these wicked darts from hurting us. This shield is the Christian Faith which is indeed rigid so that we might be better protected. However, although the Faith be rigid and unyielding, we must use it with flexibility and wisdom. We need to be trained to use our shield effectively so that whole we may protect ourselves from evil darts, they may not be allowed to ricochet and hit others who are more vulnerable. Faith must be wielded with Charity. We cannot forget that in Christ there is much joy and thus by participating in the Faith of Christ, we make that joy available to others.

Finally, we are given an instrument to repel evil, the same double-edged sword that proceeds from the mouth of the son of Man as St John witnessed in his Apocalypse. This sword is the word of God and with lifelong training we can repel evil, not as single mercenaries fighting guerrilla tactics, but as an army coordinated by God Himself, not against any man, but against evil.

This is why we must give thanks for our armed forces and remember those who have given their lives so that we might continue in our own struggle against evil free from oppression and cruelty in the manner in which God intended. Their sacrifice has meant the relief of countless innocent people, many yet unborn, and this cannot be forgotten. However, is laying a wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph enough? For their sacrifice to be remembered appropriately, shouldn't we be seeking to cultivate in our society more of what they fought for? What did they fight for in the first place?

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