Have you ever had a bright light shone in your eyes? When this happens, it can become impossible to see or notice anything else as a result of the light’s intensity. Many people who perform on stage say that the light can be so bright that even if the theatre is full, all they are able to see in the assembly is the bright light shining in their face. This is an image that I would like to come back to in a few minutes.
Today, in the Archdiocese of Toronto, we are celebrating the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel. We are doing so because Cardinal Collins has asked that we celebrate the feast of our Archdiocesan patron at all the Sunday Masses. The feast that we are actually celebrating today is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. So happy feast day to all who are named Michael, Gabriel or Raphael. Angels are created beings who are messengers of God. Angels have a mission to bring a message on behalf of God. The guardian angels have been created to bring a message of God’s particular care and love for each of us. The Archangels are those that are given a more important task or message from God. Michael, who is known as the prince of the angels, is known as the “one who is like God.” It is his job to defend people from Satan and to protect us from temptation. Gabriel is known as “strength from God,” and because he is often entrusted with an important message from God, he is known as the messenger of God. Raphael is known as the “healing power of God,” and is best known for his saving work on behalf Sarah and Tobias in the book of Tobit. As messengers of God, the work of the angels is always involved with protecting us from what will threaten our salvation, bring God’s healing presence, or announce His good news.
What strikes me is how much activity the angels are noticed to have done prior to the coming of Jesus among us. There is more in the Old Testament about angels than in the New Testament. Their most important work in the New Testament is related to preparing Mary, Joseph, and Zachariah for the coming of Christ and John the Baptist, who will also announce the coming of Christ. So why is it that their activity seems to decrease once Christ has come into the world? Well, I would like to suggest that it is because Christ is that bright light who reveals the Father’s love so perfectly that in His light we are blinded to the activity of the angles. Because Jesus is God made man, and reveals all that the Father has to communicate to us, the role of the angels is less obvious to us in the presence of Christ, who is the true light of the world. Everything God wants to communicate to us, has been revealed to us by His own Son Jesus Christ. In His light, it is hard to notice, or for us to be dependent on, the work or efforts of the angels.
However, just because we do not notice the work of the Archangels, it does not mean that we should not celebrate it or consider what we can learn from them and their missions. The first thing that I think we can learn from the angels is how far God has gone to show us His love for us. The whole universe has been created so that we might know of God’s love. All things, visible and invisible, have been created by God so that we might know of God’s love for us. Nature is an expression of God’s love and ought to be cared for as such. The work of each Archangel also reminds us about many aspects of God’s love for us and what we should be aware of as we respond to God’s love for us.
The job of Michael the Archangel, the one “who is like God, is to defend us against evil and lead us away from temptation. St. Michael’s mission is an important reminder to us about our own lives. God has created everything and has intended it to be used for our salvation. However, all of us can be like Lucifer and see purposes for things other than those for which God created them and use them for our own sinful intentions. We can see the beauty of sexuality and turn it to the sin of pornography through lust. Marriage and friendship can be ruined by pride and the refusal to forgive. Even though we pray the “Our Father” every day, and ask to be protected from temptation, we always need to be aware of how powerful temptation can be. We are to avoid the near occasion of sin and be aware of how cunning and powerful sin can be. The prayer of St. Michael the Archangel, with which I will conclude today’s homily, reminds us of the daily struggle to accept the gifts that God has given us and strive to use them for His glory, rather than like Lucifer, who allowed God’s gifts to become more important than His relationship with God. We are called to turn away from sin and temptation and use God’s gifts to seek our salvation. For the grace to do that, we may ask for the intercession of St. Michael in our time of need.
The Archangel Gabriel is the great messenger of God who brings the good news of God’s love for all people. Gabriel is known as “strength of God.” His mission reminds all of us that God wants everyone to know about Jesus and His love. We who celebrate God’s love for us are also called to announce God’s love. The parish’s pastoral worker, Sister Gabriel, is a good reminder of this lesson. She announces God’s love in her work as a missionary sister. As we all know, to witness is not always easy; it takes strength—God’s strength. So often at work or in the world, we are afraid to witness. Saint Gabriel reminds us that that love is part of God’s message and part of our mission as God’s people.
The Archangel Raphael is known as the healing power of God. While we now have access to God’s healing power through Christ, the Archangel Raphael reminds us that we are to be open to allow God’s healing power to work in our lives. This means we are to pray to God for healing and trust in His providence. So often we think that we can, and must, fix everything on our own terms. We desire to take things into our own hands. This can even mean that we take life and death into our hands and seek solutions to sickness that include taking our own lives, or that of another, through euthanasia. God asks us to trust in His saving and healing plan and to trust in His healing providence, as did Sarah and Tobias. We may not pay too much attention to Raphael’s mission these days because Jesus has taught us to pray “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” However, as we celebrate the Archangel Raphael today, we are invited to believe in God’s saving and healing providence in our own lives.
There is a beautiful icon by Andrei Rublev known as either “The Trinity” or “the Hospitality of Abraham.” It represents the three angels that Abraham hosted and by which he was placed in God’s presence. Some have referred to these angels as the actual three persons of the Holy Trinity. Msgr. Robert Nusca, the pastor at Holy Rosary Parish, has written a book called, The Christ of the Apocalypse: Contemplating the Faces of Jesus in the Book of Revelation, in which he states that the Book of Revelation invites us to be live in God’s presence—as the fourth person at the table with the persons of the Holy Trinity in Rublev’s icon. As we celebrate this weekend the feast of the Archangels, this image speaks powerfully of the purpose of the message that the angels have been given. For each of us to truly be saved and be in God’s presence, we are to avoid sin and resist temptation. Sin is a serious threat to our salvation. We should ask the Archangel Michael to intercede for us in our daily struggle against sin. The Archangel Gabriel reminds us that we are to hear the message of God’s love for all people and to announce it to our brothers and sisters with courage. We can ask the Archangel Gabriel to help us do this. The Archangel Raphael reminds us of God’s saving power and invites us to trust in His providence. The angels call us to live in God’s presence. Everything that they do, Jesus does to the full perfection. In His light, we may fail to notice the work of the Archangels. Everything that we pray to them for, we can also pray directly to God through the words of the “Our Father.” The Feast of the Archangels calls our attention to the attributes of God and our relationship with Christ which we might at times take for granted. Everything that we need for salvation, we are to find in Christ and His teachings. As His messengers, the mission of the angles is to help all of us know the love that God has for all people. Celebrating the Archangels this weekend, let us conclude with the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the
wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him,
we humbly pray:
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.
May God bless all of us and our Archdiocese on this feast of our patron, St. Michael the Archangel.
Fr. Michael McGourty,
Pastor, St. Peter’s parish—Toronto.