Listen up, soldier!
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
A comforting prophecy for those who risk death daily in the cause of peace.
Then, the words of the Centurion in today’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-11) ring familiar for anyone who has served in uniform.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.
Most Christians (especially Catholics who were confirmed with an old-style catechism) know that we are all soldiers of Jesus Christ: he is our Lord – our commander; we owe him obedience (and he has earned our undying affection); we are not just individuals, we are part of a larger unit; and we are engaged in an ongoing struggle for the greatest good possible.
The first objective of a soldier, however, is not capturing and holding territory: the first objective of a soldier is conquering and controlling oneself.
Likewise, what is most critical to a soldier day-in and day-out is not high-tech weaponry: what keeps you alive day-in and day-out is what you wear and what you carry with you – most especially your training.
As a soldier of Christ, what you train in, what you wear, and what you carry with you is Truth itself in all its fullness.
St. Paul runs through the checklist in Ephesians 6:14-17:
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 (the) flaming arrows of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
As we begin this season of Advent, preparing for the coming of the Lord at Christmas and the coming of the Lord at the end of days, we do well to take this opportunity to train and retrain ourselves as soldiers of Christ: immersing ourselves in his word, his truth, his faith; conquering ourselves internally by the power of that truth and of his grace; and letting ourselves shine externally as warriors of light - as beacons of charity, holiness, and truth - so that by our witness
Many peoples shall come and say:
"Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths."