The readings are from the atholic lectionary for daily mass, while the headlines are meant to keep my thinking real:
PALESTINIAN SHOT DEAD ON ATTEMPT TO KILL JEWISH ULTRA
Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground.
So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.
The word translated “armour” in almost all versions of this passage is “panoplia” which the KJV gives as “complete armour” that is not just body armour but all the warrior’s kit. This should tell us that Paul is not talking about the armour God has prepared for human beings, but rather the armaments God puts on when he goes to war against evil.
“stand then with truth as a your buckler, and justice as your breastplate and your feet shod with eagerness to spread the gospel of peace. Carry always the shield of faithfulness with which you can put out the fiery arrows of the evil one. Take the power to deliver as your helmet and the sword of the spirit, which is God’s word.” That’s how God sets himself up. These are God’s own weapons which he offers to his people. This is the Christian jihad, the holy war, which believers can share with God, but it is a war without violence from God’s side.
Who are the enemies? Not men and women, Paul says, but the “spiritual army of evil in the heavens.” The people of the Roman Empire shared a belief that the heavens and the heavenly bodies ruled the earth. Great powers, such as that of Rome and her rulers were represented in the heavens and worshipped as deities. Other powers that we would call cultural and economic determinants, were also placed in the heavens, from where they held sway over human beings. If we are inclined to think of these as outdated beliefs, we should ask ourselves how much we are swayed by our capitalist economy and our free market culture in which everything is for sale and disposable. Paul saw these powers as trying to determine the lives of people by shutting them off from God. That’s why God goes to war agaist them and encourages his people to use his armaments:
1. Truth. That is, the unveiled truth. The facts are friendly; God is in the facts.
2. Justice. That is, equal dealing without respect for status.
3. Eagerness to spread the gospel of peace. That is, making peace by word and action.
4. Faithfulness. That is, keeping promises, even to the unfaithful.
5. The power to deliver. That is, delivering people from evil.
6. The creative word. That is, the word which enables life rather than destroying it.
It’s worth taking time to reflect on these components of God’s armament for holy war. They are very different from the armaments of Crusaders or of Islamic State but more effective.
Some Pharisees came up. ‘Go away’ they said. ‘Leave this place, because Herod means to kill you.’ He replied, ‘You may go and give that fox this message: Learn that today and tomorrow I cast out devils and on the third day attain my end. But for today and tomorrow and the next day I must go on, since it would not be right for a prophet to die outside Jerusalem.
‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you refused! So be it! Your house will be left to you. Yes, I promise you, you shall not see me till the time comes when you say:
‘Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Jesus’ gives a bold reply to Herod who is rumoured to be seeking his life. He calls him a fox in humourous recognition of his craftiness, and explains that he knows what end awaits him but that for the present he has work to do, casting out evil spirits, some of which may be linked to evil rulers. He reveals that he expects his visit to the Holy City to end with his death.
His lament over the city is made in the character of Lady Wisdom of Proverbs 8, who is depicted as a manifestation of God’s guidance. The feminine image surfaces in the hen who shelters her chickens under her wings. Jesus has longed to gather his people under God’s rule, but knows his mssion has been refused. I see no reason not to accept these words as a genuine expression of Jesus’ heart, applicable to the violent thugs who rule Jerusalem today.
Jesus view of his own mission allows us to see him as God’s jihadist, fighting a holy war against evil powers. He above all is the one who has put on the complete armament of God; and in his ministry we can see clearly the meaning of Paul’s list of weapons. In conversation with Muslim people we should not denigrate the Qur’anic concept of Jihad; we also believe in a struggle against evil, but our tradition defines the struggle and the true weapons differently from Islam. This could be a creative conversation to instigate at the present time.