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Angels and Children
Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I know that, as today’s psalm says, seeking you is the path to reviving my heart: “… you who seek God, may your hearts revive!” I believe that you are here present with me now, eagerly and lovingly wanting to revive my heart, to fill me with courage, to nourish the good desires that you planted within me long ago. I truly seek you, Lord. I seek to know you better, so that I can love you better, so that I can follow you better. Revive my heart, O Lord!
- Some Spiritual Allies: Angels are purely spiritual beings. They can influence the material world and interact with it, but they are not material beings. This purely spiritual nature is symbolically represented in art by depicting them with wings. But since they are immaterial, popular culture in our secularized world doesn’t pay angels much mind. They can’t be studied in a laboratory. For a materialistic culture like ours, that makes them irrelevant, if not nonexistent. And yet, today Jesus speaks explicitly about angels as playing a constant and central role in our lives. Each of us has at least one guardian angel who watches over us even while staying always in God the Father’s presence. All around us these unseen spiritual allies work mysteriously but tirelessly to protect and guide us as we make our way through life’s difficulties and temptations. They are true persons united to us through their fidelity to God, committed to serving Christ’s Kingdom and glorifying God by helping us along our Christian journey. Today of all days we should thank God for the gift of our guardian angels, and we should thank our guardian angels for being faithful to God’s love instead of joining the devil and his fallen angels in their fruitless rebellion against the Lord.
- Childlike Simplicity: Any time Jesus begins a statement with, “Amen, I say to you,” he is inviting us to pay special attention; he is making a solemn proclamation. In today’s Gospel, this proclamation came in the wake of his disciples’ squabbles about ambition and rank in Christ’s Kingdom. Jesus intervened in the discussion by turning the tables. For Jesus, true greatness is found not in energetic striving to climb the ladder of success, but in humility, in childlike simplicity: ..unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. How hard it is for us to release our striving! How hard it is for us to accept and enjoy what the Lord provides for us each day without needlessly fretting about things outside our control! How hard it is for us to be content with simply knowing and embracing God’s will moment by moment! Instead of living in the peace of childlike trust in God’s perfect providence, we doubt and worry and demand and complain and dwell in the turbulence of unnecessary anxiety. Jesus wants us to release those attitudes and lean with childlike confidence on his infinite goodness. Let us do so, following Baruch’s admonition from the first reading: As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him…
- Learning from St. Germaine: A little-known saint brings together the two themes of today’s liturgy: grateful faith in our guardian angels and childlike confidence in God’s providence. St. Germaine of Pibrac died at the young age of twenty-two, in France in 1601. She came from a poor family and lost her mother as an infant. Her stepmother made her sleep in the barn to make room in the house for her own children, and then sent her out to work as a shepherdess when she was just nine years old. For a girl with poor health and a crippled hand, shepherding wasn’t an easy job, but Germaine took advantage of it as best she could. She made a little rosary for herself out of a knotted string to help her pray while she worked, and she dedicated what little free time she had to teaching the younger children of the town their catechism. Her faith drove all she did, and her confidence in God was the anchor of her life. In fact, she was so committed to leaning on God that she never missed Mass, even if the bell for Mass rang after she was already in the fields with the sheep. On those occasions, she would leave her shepherd’s crook there in the ground, charge her guardian angel with caring for the flock, and go off to worship the Lord. She never lost a sheep. When her young body was exhumed during a restoration of the local church, forty years after her death, it was found incorrupt, confirming the sanctity that had already shown itself through miracles during her teens. Perhaps we have something to learn from this peasant girl of the sixteenth century whose faith spawned a wisdom and a courage well beyond her years.
Conversing with Christ: Dear Lord, you know my heart. You know how deeply I desire to trust you fully, wildly, joyfully. I know that the fulfillment I yearn for will not come from anxious ambition and fretful striving. It will come from living an ever-deeper communion with you, from throwing myself into your arms and rejoicing in being loved and chosen by you. I want to live in the peace and the meaning of your Kingdom; teach me to live with the childlike simplicity you made as a condition of entering that Kingdom. Angel sent by God to guide me; be my light and walk beside me; be my guardian and protect me; on the path of life direct me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will say a special prayer of thanksgiving to my guardian angel, and then say another guardian angel prayer whenever I find myself anxious or worried.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church 328-336, on the angels.
Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.