Feast of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels
Deuteronomy 7:9-10, 13-14 or Revelation 12:7-12a
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
Supernatural beings, particularly angels, continue to hold sway in popular culture. A 2008 survey in the US states that of the 1,700 polled – 55%, including one in five who say they are not religious, believe in a guardian angel. Our Catholic belief in angels can easily be traced back to our Jewish origins. With his book, The Celestial Hierarchy, in the 4th century C.E., the medieval theologian Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite classified angels into several orders ranked by importance. Angels and archangels were considered to be of the lowest order, primarily concerned with the affairs of men.
Why the fuss about these three angels in particular? Perhaps because they are named specifically in the Scriptures, perhaps because they each perform certain functions -Michael as defender, Gabriel as messenger and Raphael as healer – and also more importantly perhaps because they demonstrate God’s supernatural care and concern for each and everyone of us.
The gospel today records Jesus meeting with Nathanial, Philip’s brother. Jesus sizes up Nathanial quickly and realizes that there was "no duplicity in him." Nathanial was not one to be taken in by fast talk and overblown promises. He was not one to believe in pie-in-the-sky stories so it may seem a bit ironic that Jesus ends his conversation with Nathanial telling him that he will see "the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Yet again, Jesus is making a significant point. Jesus is letting Nathanial know that to believe in him really means to embrace the totality of Him and his message. It is one thing to call someone a king; it is another to place your life at the king’s service. But as Jesus points out, once that is done, amazing things can happen!
Patrick Quinn ([email protected]) is the director of Planned Giving at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.