Sermon on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians chapter 6
As the Christian year comes moves towards its culmination, we celebrate the festival of Michaelmas, in which we turn to the one who has so united himself with Jesus Christ that he shines out his countenance. He stands by us in all our trials and challenges of becoming truly, fully human.
Every day we encounter evil. It rises up in a multitude of forms, grasping every moment of human encounter, enters our thoughts, our hearts, our desires, and tries to lead us off the path, out of the full daylight of consciousness. As we wrestle to try to take hold of our unique selfhood, it adjusts to our personal pitfalls, and clothes itself in partial refections of what we think we want. Evil is clever, and dedicated!
The reading today from Paul’s letter recognizes that the human being is in a battle which is less an outer battle but one of the finest inner struggles. So he speaks of an armor that we can put on our in our soul life: standing firm, girding ourselves with truth, wearing the breastplate of moral alignment, and bringing the gospel of peace into our very walking through our days. Faith can serve as a shield; the healing that Christ brings can protect our thought life; and the word we choose to speak can act as a sword.
All of this is to protect the human heart—the organ of perception for the other, for God, and the guide for one’s own direction and deeds in life. The heart of the matter. The heart of the human being.
Yesterday we heard a wonderful quote: Patience eats the devil. Patience is a quality of soul that upends the entire effort of the Adversary to steal our lives from us. With the practice of patience, we refuse interference by the adversarial powers who would steal time away from the unfolding of our lives, our spirits into earthly existence. We need time to become. We need time to listen to another. We need time to help children grow up. We need time to understand. We need time to learn. And only with time does love arise, growing from a feeling into deeds. Christ is the Lord of Time, which is why he is also the Lord of Karma and Destiny. The devil and Satan would steal time from us. Patience is another practice of putting on the armor of God.
The Sacrament also unfolds in time. It is ordered with a clear beginning and end, and in between is a path of becoming which unfolds. The Sacrament is, in one of its aspects Time Medicine for human beings, restoring to us a sense of peace in the holy unfolding of spiritual light into earthly daylight. It is gives back to us a living moment, pregnant with the becoming of our spirit into our soul-bodily life. Without taking time for such events such as sacrament, prayer, thanksgiving, these do not demand our time. We can be so busy that we forget to tend to the most important things in our lives.
The working of evil is clever and economical; it capitalizes on our weak spots and most of the time, probably does not have to work so hard.
In the Christian classic, Thomas à Kempis’ Imitiation of Christ, there is a chapter entitled: On the Blessed Sacrament—Holy Communion Ought Not To Be Readily Deferred.
In this chapter, he says: “If you seek healing for your passions and habits, and desire to be made stronger and become more vigilant against the devil’s deceits and temptations, then you must have frequent recourse to the fountain of grace and divine mercy the fountain of goodness and all purity. Aware of the great fruit and healing power within the Sacrament, the enemy tries with all his might—in every way and at every opportunity—to hinder and prevent the faithful and devout person from receiving it.” He describes these attacks, and then goes on to say: “Pay no attention to the enemy’s wiles or to the images he instills in your minds—no matter how horrid or shameful they be—but hurl all phantasms back upon his head.”
“What advantage is there in delaying confession or putting off Holy Communion? Cleanse yourself immediately; spit out the poison and be quick to take the antidote and you will feel much better than if you kept delaying for a long time.”
What a gift we have to be able to commune with the one who would have us become truly who we are—all different from one another—and who does not fear this, or want to suppress it—but celebrates it, longs for it, and offers himself completely to us that it may become? What joy, what a holy gift that we have a God who loves us with his entire being, and offers to clothe us in the true armor of his love in every moment!
— Liza Marcato