Martyrs of Ireland
The canonisation of Saint Oliver Plunkett in 1975 brought an awareness of the many men and women who were martyred for their Catholic Faith in Ireland during the 16th and 17th centuries. On 22nd September 1992 Pope John Paul II beatified 17 Irish men and women. Among them are two Dominicans whose feast we celebrate today: Bishop Terence O’Brien who was hung, drawn and quartered in Limerick on this day in 1651 and also Father Peter Higgins who was hanged in Dublin in 1642.
As we honour them in this Mass let us ask their intercession and their protection for the Church, especially in Ireland, and for the Order of Preachers.
Action heroes have made a comeback on the silver screen. Not only have we been treated to re-workings of Batman and Superman, we have also seen incarnations of Ironman, Spiderman, Thor and the Incredible Hulk.
And more films are on the way. So what is it about superheroes that is so appealing? Is it their sense of confidence and invincibility? Or is it the way they seem like ordinary, everyday people but actually have access to some secret power that makes them extraordinary?
Today’s first reading can give the impression that we can be like superheroes if we learn to “draw strength from the Lord and from his mighty power”. After all, who is more powerful than God himself? And if we have access to his mighty power, then that must mean we can do awesome things as well.
On one level, that’s absolutely right. But St. Paul didn’t write about spiritual armour so that we would go out and do battle against demonic forces, or human forces, for that matter. St. Paul knew that we didn’t have to go looking for a fight. His own experience taught him that the fight would come to us soon enough.
St. Paul lists the instruments of battle: a breastplate, boots, a shield, a helmet, and a sword. Did you notice that only one is a weapon? The rest are meant for protection against attack. Notice, too, the posture that Paul tells the Ephesians to take up: they are to “stand firm,” ready to resist evil when it comes at them, and to “stand fast” whenever they are attacked.
Why is this important? Well, because there is a battle going on all around us, and we need to be aware of it. But part of our vocation is not to wage war against enemy forces. Our calling is to help build up the kingdom of God, keeping our eyes on Jesus, not on our enemies. We simply need this armour to protect us when the devil and the world try to wear us down.
And so where should our focus be? Is it on our enemies? Or on all the good that we can do? Like the Dominican martyrs Blessed Terence and Blessed Peter, people need us to show them the way to Christ, far more than they need to see another superhero.