The Armor of Light

A friend recently shared with me the difficulties he has at work—toxic atmosphere, disrespect of rules, bullying, and filthy relationships—and he was wondering how to deal with it. As we were talking, St. Paul came to mind with his expression “armor of light” (Rom 13:12). In the letter to the Ephesians, he explains:

“Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (…) So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (6:10-17)

 When we think of weapons, we usually don’t think of truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, and the word of God. What different kind of weapons! If we fight with the weapons of darkness, the situation will continue to be dark. Wounds on all sides will increase; grief and wish for revenge will grow. Instead, if we fight back with the weapons of light, light will come onto the scene. We are not supposed to not defend ourselves, because it is evil that we encounter. The question is how we defend ourselves.

“Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Rom 13:12

 This is the other way to respond to difficult situations, a way that really helps us to exit the spiral of negativity and violence. Faith, truth, and the word of God is what make us truly strong. This is what protects us. Faith is powerful.

Lord, let me learn to use the weapons of light. I yearn for light and peace. Let me stick with my faith, especially in difficult situations. Let me meditate your word so as to be ready to respond. Let me not be afraid to follow the truth. Let me pursue righteousness. And let me believe that you are the salvation, that you have saved us, that you have already won the battle! On earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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Truly Born to Be Wild

For a long time, I thought my last name “Wilde” meant “wild” in the sense of “not civilized, uncultivated, not domesticated, chaotic”. Only recently did I find out that in the German language “wild” originally signifies a “stranger”. People coming from unknown places were considered to be “wild”. Strangers, whose behavior, customs, language, traditions, were not familiar and did not match with accustomed expectations. Monks are born to be wild. “You should become a stranger to the world’s ways [Saeculi actibus se facere alienum]”, says St. Benedict in his Rule. And he adds the reason: “The love of Christ must come before all else.” (Rule of St. Benedict 4:20-21). He is pretty outspoken; he disqualifies those who are “still loyal to the world by their actions; they clearly lie to God by their tonsure.” (Rule 1:7).

Well, I don’t have my hair tonsured, but I wear a habit. So, lying is possible. How can I be wild? How can I become a stranger to this world? I am part of this world!  I realize how much energy I spend to be up-to-date, to go with the trend, to stay assimilated, to keep up with what is expected from me. Jesus words instead sound like a warm invitation to trust the roots I have in heaven. “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” (John 18:36), he says, and draws the consequence for us, his disciples: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.” (John 17:18). Jesus came as stranger and became our best friend.

It still frightens me a little bit. The first monks were wild; so were the prophets. The Saints were wild, like St. Jerome. Jesus was wild. I admire them and know that I am far away from this freedom and wildness. But I hear their call. I feel that everybody is truly born to be wild, not only monks.

Christ, help me to be wild. Take away from me the fear not to be like the others. Let me enjoy that I am different and strengthen in me the awareness that I come from God. Get me away from all that is clinging to me, from everything I am too much attached to. Give me the courage to enter the wilderness and stay there. And open my heart to my true call.

Chicago Art Inst 079 - Copy
Paolo Caliari (1585/90) – Saint Jerome in the wilderness