24 September 2017

St Michael defeating Lucifer by Francesco Maffei

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this day be at my side to light, to guard, to rule, and to guide.

     This prayer to our Guardian Angel is one of the most endearing prayers that we hopefully learned as children. The Church celebrate the feasts of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael this week (29 September) and then the Holy Guardian Angels on 2 October. 

     Popular culture today often presents angels in a syrupy, saccharine manner in television shows, greeting cards, movies, books, and other media. Angels are regularly presented within a type of New Age belief whereby these spirits live in a celestial world so that they will supposedly help us to connect with the universe’s “energy” in an effort to control our own destiny. New Age is nothing but age-old occult practices, and by enlisting the concept of angels, New Age proponents think that they will lull people into thinking New Age spiritualism is perfectly fine or even worse, that it is compatible with Catholicism.

     Nothing could be further from the truth. Both the Old and New Testaments present the angels as strong messengers sent by God to help us on our pilgrimage through life. Angels are not the equivalent of sweet stuffed animals. They are strong and robust in their attendance before God and in their work on our behalf to achieve the salvation won by Jesus Christ. 

     For example, we read in the Book of Revelation, “War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon [Lucifer]. The dragon and his angels [the other demons] fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it” (Revelation 12: 7-9).

     We see from this passage that the angels are strong warriors. Spiritual warfare occurs all around us every day even though we are not conscious of it most of the time. God’s strength enables His angels to battle against Lucifer’s army. The Devil’s rebellion against God and His goodness has so deformed Lucifer that he now more properly resembles a thing instead of a creature capable of a personal relationship with God and His creation. Satan and the demons refuse to turn outward in a relationship with others. They are eternally turned inward on themselves. Their goal is to enlist each one of us in their rebellion, but not out of friendship or companionship. The motivation of the demons is only one: “By the envy of the Devil, death came into the world” (Wisdom 2: 24). His motivation is envy and his tactics are lies.

     Why is Lucifer envious of us? As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (1: 14). The angels serve us because the Son of God became man and took on a human nature to win salvation for us. God did not become an angel to redeem the fallen demons. Their eternal destiny is sealed forever. Not so with us, however. While we are in this world, we can grow daily in grace, or divine friendship, with God. We can even make a return to Him if we have sinned by going to Confession. 

     Moreover, we can eat the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God Himself in Holy Communion. The angels cannot do this because they have no material bodies. 

     Even though the angels surpass us in their abilities, those very abilities are meant to serve us because of mankind’s unique union and connection with Jesus through His human nature while not ceasing to be divine as our eternal God. Theological speculation has postulated that Satan was repelled by the notion of serving man; such service was beneath him. In addition, some theologians have believed that Lucifer refused to serve a God who would so humble Himself as to take on the nature of His creatures. The famous quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost is aptly suited for Lucifer eternally: Satan mistakenly believes that it is “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

     Yet, we know that men and angels are, in fact, created to serve. They serve God first and then their neighbor. God Himself is the model for perfect service: He gave His very life on the Cross. By giving everything away, He showed us that the one thing that we fear the most—death and all its attendant consequences of suffering along with sin—could not conquer Him. Since God’s very nature is to share Himself with us and with His angels, then He can rightly declare throughout the Sacred Scriptures, “Do not be afraid.” God does not abandon us after showing us the way to Himself through His Son. We look to the angels, therefore, as our guides and friends who will travel with us every day of our life. We look forward, in fact, to one day meeting our guardian angel directly along with the entire heavenly court. May we be blessed each day by praying to our guardian angel and following his inspirations and counsel! 

     As God promised the ancient Israelites in the desert travelling to the Promised Land, so He promises us an angel to guide us to the everlasting Promised Land of heaven itself: “See, I am sending an angel before you, to guard you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your sin. My authority resides in him. If you heed his voice and carry out all I tell you, I will be an enemy to your enemy and a foe to your foes. My angel will go before you” (Exodus 23: 20-23).

     May you have a most blessed and holy week!

     Fr. Shawn William Cutler

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