As we celebrate our 75th Anniversary and look forward to the challenges of our future, we also celebrate the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. In the Opening Prayer, we call on the Father, who disposes over the ministries of both angels and human beings, to use his servant angels to defend our life and our ministries here on earth. Today we hope for this especially of the archangels whom we honor:
Michael,“who is like God,” battled Satan in loyalty to God.
Gabriel, “the power of God,”announced to Mary that she was to be the mother of God; he announced to Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son; He was the messenger of the Good News.
Raphael, “God has healed,” he brought healing to the blind Tobit; he accompanied Tobiah on his journey.
In celebration of our three archangels, we are invited through the readings of today to prayerfully consider three images: God, the Son of Man, the servants of God:
First the image of God.
From the book of Daniel, there is a mysterious image of God as “an Ancient One,” awesome, powerful, wise:
Thrones were set up
And the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was bright as snow,
And the hair on his head was white as wool.
His throne was flames of fire
With wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
Flowed out from where he sat….
He is ministered to by thousands upon thousands.
Myriads upon myriads attend to him.
God awesome, wise, powerful
In the Gospel reading, this same God is referred to in Jesus’ promise of the great things his disciples would behold –
when the heavens open,
the vision of God in his power and majesty.
God, awesome, wise, powerful, the Ancient One, like an Old Man, the old sage.
It is an Old Testament image of God seen “through a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12) as children imagine God as an old bearded man in the clouds.
It is complemented in the Old Testament in the Old Testament by other images of God: In Genesis he is a Creator; in the historical books, he is a Warrior; in the Song of Songs he is a Lover.
Second, the image of the Son
In Daniel’s vision he saw:
One like a son of man coming
On the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
And was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory and kingship;
Nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His Dominion is an everlasting dominion
That shall not be taken away
His kingship shall not be destroyed
The Son of Man is he who receives dominion, glory and kingship from the Father, with earthy images of nations and peoples serving him. It is an earthly but everlasting Kingdom.
In the Gospel image, the image of the Son of Man, is startling:
Amen, I say to you,
You will see the heavens opened
And the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
We all know that when Jesus used the title, “Son of Man,” he was referring to himself.
This is a powerful messianic image based on Genesis 28:12-13 in which Jacob has a vision of a ladder. God’s heaven is connected to our earth by a ladder. God’s power and dominion is exercised through his angels using this ladder between heaven and earth to do God’s heavenly bidding on earth. God uses this ladder to fulfill his promise: “Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this Land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen. 28: 15).
Jesus is the ladder through which God fulfills his promise to be faithful to us.
We know in the New Testament the Son is the only true image of the Father.
The Son is the ladder, the connection, the mediator between heaven and earth.
He who comes to express God’s love, love to the full, and to bring God’s life, life to the full. God’s love and life, God’s compassion and concern, are imaged most appropriately only on the Cross where the awesome, wise and powerful God, is a Servant Suffering to gather us to himself and convince us of his love.
We’ve seen the image of the Father, and the image of the Son of Man – on the Cross – , which is the only appropriate image of the Father.
Third the images of God servants
Servants like Daniel’s “thousands and thousands”, “myriads and myriads” of angels attending on God in his heaven.
But also images of God’s angelic Servants traveling up and down Jacob’s ladder to connect God’s heaven with our earth, to connect God’s will with our history.
Servants like Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, to help us battle against evil, announce God’s Good News to humankind, and protect us in our struggles and journeys of life.
Servants, like all those whom Jesus, the King, calls to his service in proclaiming the Kingdom God on our earth, in calling all to the fullness of life.
The message from these three images: we are not alone. God is with us.
In our communities, our parishes, our homes, our schools…
God is with us.
God disposes over the ministries of angels and human beings – in leading us to the fullness of life.
God continues to proclaim his Kingdom
Where others proclaim a kingdom of self-interest, or a kingdom of consumerism, or a kingdom of power.
His is a Kingdom of Truth, Justice and Peace…
He invites us to new fervor and new spirit in embracing it.
On this our 75th Anniversary, let us open ourselves more generously to his disposition.