October 2, 2011
St. Michael and All Angels SundayAngels. Archangels. Guardian Angels. Are they just distant relics of the past? Don't sit too close, leave room for your Guardian Angel. Don't be afraid. You're Angel will protect you, guard you, and support you, “lest you dash your foot against a stone.” All night. All day. Angels watching over me. Over you. Over all the weary world.
Angels. Messenger Angels. Bearers of the big news. Glory to God in the highest. Peace on earth to all of goodwill. God's efficient emissaries. The Angel Gabriel. Bring glad tidings of great joy to the barren womb of Israel and of all humankind. Fear not, Zechariah. Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear a child. Fear not, Mary. The child already alive in you is of the Holy Spirit. Fear not, all you people of faith and goodwill. Nothing is impossible with God.
Angels. Warrior Angels. Michael, the principal principality, celestial troubleshooter, victorious, triumphant, defiant, the one who defeats the dragon in defending good over evil. Fighting Angels. Fallen Angels. Lucifer, full of light, a.k.a. Satan the deceiver, thrown out of heaven, thrown down to earth in contempt of the heavenly court to tempt the unsuspecting, spitting venom like a snake in the grass. War broke out in heaven, and ex-Angel Satan and legions of Angels all fell like lightning, conquered by the blood of the Lamb. Angels and former Angels. Principalities and Powers. A hierarchy of Angels, Archangels, Cherubim, and Seraphim.
Angels. Healing Angels. Raphael, healer of Tobit’s eyes. Exorcist Angel for Sarah. Messenger of courage. Take courage God has healing in store for you. I will go with him; have no fear. In good health we shall leave you, and in good health we shall return to you, for the way is safe. The demon, repelled by the odor of the fish, fled into Upper Egypt; Raphael pursued him there and bound him hand and foot. Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Before all men, honor and proclaim God's deeds, and do not be slack in praising him. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord. No need to fear; you are safe. Thank God now and forever.
Angels. Ascending and descending the mystical ladder linking heaven and earth. Ten thousand times ten thousand Angels serving the One whose everlasting dominion will never pass away. And every now and then, on a midnight clear, listen: you may hear once again a glorious song, of Angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.
We have grown so accustomed to the rumor of Angels that we would confuse rumor with reality. Our written records suggest that all the really important Angels are male. Michael. Gabriel. Raphael. Is this fact or is it fiction? Do they have or even need gender? Oral tradition adds its own whimsical touch. Harps. Halos. Wings. Angelic choirs. In the absence of physical evidence, our fantasy fills in the facts. We may have never seen an Angel, yet we picture fiery figures with flaming swords, or fat little cherubs, according to the circumstances of the Church year. And our assumption is that one day, we too will be Angels, claiming our halo, earning our wings and a place in the heavenly choir. We have theologically thought and rationalized and romanticized through the centuries about the subject of Angels, perhaps saying too much about something we know far too little about. Today is the feast of Angels, but what are we to celebrate? What are Angels for you and for me?
In the Gospel according to John, Jesus makes a promise to Nathaniel the Israelite. Believe in me, says Jesus, and you will see even greater things than what I have revealed to you. You'll see what Jacob and Daniel saw, and what the Saints of God have envisioned. You will see the integral connection between God and humankind, between the mysteries of heaven and the realities of Earth. You will experience the power of God and the energy of grace flowing with a fierce force between the heavenly and earthly realms. You will discern blessings ascending and descending through the Incarnate One who bridges the human and the divine. At times, you may even see Angels, for Angels signal God's presence and mediate God's providential care. Angels inhabit the realm of the spirit where we must learn more and more to dwell. And at decisive turning points in the history of faith, Angels have been known to communicate to us and interpret for us the intricacies of grace.
Angels remind us that there is more to life than what is immediately apparent. As often as seeing is believing, even more often, really believing is seeing far more than meets the eye. Such spiritual insight born of faith bestows an inner authority that demons cannot withstand. Yet Luke reminds us not to rejoice in authority or power, but rather that our names are written in the heavens to shine forever like stars.
We will understand the meaning of Angels only if we learn to transcend the language telling us what Angels are about. Forget the vain pursuit of halo and harp and eternal rest on a cloud. Enough of those larger-than-life, militant Seraphim who support our propensity for war. Put aside the hierarchical, patriarchal imagery. Angels have something important to teach us about ourselves and God. Angels remind us that our material world is influenced by the world of the spirit, and that we are intrinsically capable of inhabiting both worlds with equal ease. Humanity may rank a little lower than the angels because we are flash as well as spirit, yet through Jesus who is God's own word made flesh, we can rise above the Angels the share in the very life of God. Yet Angels delight in this. True Angels exist to do God’s will and do so with great grace and joy; not with the reluctance of Hollywood movies or bestselling novels. Look close and you will see the Angels revealing God's secret's, guarding and protecting the vulnerable, witnessing to miracles, and are called to unending praise. Today we celebrate not only their achievements, but also let the potential in ourselves to be and do the same. So we are invited to learn how to be an Angel. And may the grace of God flow in and through all of us in our weary world.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.