Feast of Ss. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Today I find we as Catholic Christians are rather reluctant to speak about angels, at least in public. We may believe in them, and some of us, no doubt, have actually encountered them at one point in our lives. But to speak about them is something we would rather not do publicly. Like the scholar Dr. Stephen F. Noll is quoted as saying: "…one good reason for this: angels are marginal figures. They never appear center stage: they are always in the wings!"
Yet the Church in its wisdom celebrates today the Feast of the Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In this feast, the Church reminds us that angels and archangels are part of God’s creation, like ourselves. But unlike we who are "created in the image and likeness of God," the angels are spirits who were created for a purpose, a function. Indeed the Greek word angel means messenger. And as Saint Gregory the Great reminds us in the Office of Readings: "the word ‘angel’ denotes a function rather than a nature."
Angels deliver messages; archangels deliver messages of great importance!
Think back to the Archangel Gabriel’s salutation to Elizabeth and to the Virgin Mary. Think of Michael who is sent to express God’s complete victorious power over evil, and Raphael, who is sent to Tobit to heal his blindness. The names of the archangels themselves are also rather telling: Michael means "Who is like God?." Gabriel means "the Strength of God" and Raphael "God’s Remedy." Angels are messengers and should never be confused with the message…angels simply point to God.
In the gospel today we hear of the call of Nathanael and his encounter with God. Jesus calls him a "true son of Israel." There are echoes here of an earlier son named "Israel" from the book of Genesis -Jacob-who experiences a bridge to God through the messenger angels ascending to and descending from God’s throne. But it is in the person of Jesus that we encounter the ultimate bridge to God – Jesus who brings those on earth to heaven and unites heaven to earth!
Make no mistake, faithful Christian, while archangels can carry the important messages of God, they only point to the ultimate reality. Only we who possess Christ Jesus can encounter and actually carry within ourselves the ultimate God Himself!
Patrick Quinn is the Director of Planned Giving and works in the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.