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Angels, Be Our Strength
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I admire all of your creation, but the most amazing creatures you’ve made are angels. Thank you for revealing them to us and for giving them power to protect us.
- Servants of Jesus: The church wisely sets aside this feast day to thank God for angels. They are impressive spirits. “Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples. Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 332). We actually pray with these amazing creatures every time we attend Mass. The priest invites us… “And so, with Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim, Holy Holy Holy…” (Eucharistic Prayer II).
- Archangels: According to St. Gregory the Great, spirits who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels, and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels. We know the names of only three archangels: Michael means “Who is like God?”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; Raphael is “God’s Remedy.” Raphael healed Tobit of his blindness. Gabriel was sent to Zachariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist, and then to Mary to invite her to be the Mother of God. Michael is the defender of the church on earth. Many parishes have the holy habit of ending Mass with the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, begging for his continued protection of Holy Mother Church.
- Gabriel: Theologians speculate that Gabriel not only visited the Blessed Mother, but was given the role of protecting the Holy Family. He would have been the angel likely to have made the joyous announcement to the shepherds, and to have visited Joseph with the news of Herod. As “The Strength of God,” he may have assisted Jesus in the desert during his forty-day vigil and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, he may have been privileged to give the news of the Resurrection to Mary Magdalene. It’s remarkable to reflect on the intertwining of heaven’s angels with our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. By his presence, Gabriel consoled and strengthened Jesus. We join the angels consoling Jesus when we accompany him mystically through his passion, death and resurrection.
Conversing with Christ: Thank you Lord for the archangels. What amazing powers they have to act on our behalf! Their participation in salvation history reminds me that your creative powers are well beyond my imagination. Praises be to you, Lord.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will thank you for the angels as I say a decade (or more) of the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary.
For Further Reflection: Angels and Demons by Peter Kreeft.
Written by Maribeth Harper.