I was in St Aengus Church in Burt on Thursday night to preach at the Novena to our Mother of Perpetual Help. The day in question was the Feast of the Archangels and I was asked to talk about angels as God’s messengers.
I began by explaining how being the eldest of four children I spent the first number of years of my life as an only child. Looking back I’m not sure if I was lonely at times but certainly they’re been occasions during the following years when sharing a room with two brothers made me pine for those less cramped and quieter days and nights. Back then I had a small room at the front of the house overlooking the Racecourse Road. Often at night when lying in bed the passing sound and lights from cars were welcome relief as I pretended not to be afraid of the dark.
The headlights would light up the walls of the room revealing the ever present image of two angels on one of the walls. From what I remember it was the only picture in the room, the only other source of comfort was a large blue teddy bear which was bigger than me and to this day probably still is. The portrait featured two childlike angels, one younger looking in appearance than the other. Naturally the angels had wings and they were surrounded with clouds. The other striking feature was the fact the image was painted on wood, with rough bark still present around the edges creating a natural frame. Yet the two familiar figures remained with me throughout my childhood, ever present through light and darkness, night and day.
The angels symbolised God’s constant care and protect, a reminder of how God accompanies us through our journey in life. At one level the childlike trust is something I would benefit from learning to embrace again, being conscious of needing God’s protection and grace. Since those days I haven’t exactly grown up but I have grown older and out grown my childish ways. So talk of angels had long been consigned to history. The advent of new age concepts angelogy and angel cards haven’t done much to commend the notion of angels because the waters of faith have become muddied by superstition and fantasy. The danger becomes apparent when we separate our understanding of angels from our Christian faith. Angels do not exist in and of themselves; they exist to worship and give praise to God, to be his servants in relation to human beings.To gain a proper understanding of what we mean by angels we have to return to the scriptures. In the Old Testament books of Daniel and Tobit; the names of Michael, Gabriel and Rapheal are revealed as messengers. They are the heralds of the mysteries of God preparing men and women to receive God’s word. Ultimately angels are ministers of God’s will, bridging the gap between the Father and his chosen people. Throughout salvation history God has empowered angels to reveal his propose to the world? They have been commissioned to carry the message which prepared the ground for our salvation, revealing to the prophets the word of God which they were to proclaim to all peoples.In the gospels we heard how Gabriel announced to Mary the news of Christ’s birth, how she was to conceive and bear a son who would be the saviour of all peoples. We’re told how the angels minister to Jesus in the desert, strengthen and comforted him in the garden at the moment of his greatest turmoil and agony. The same angels who would be ready to defend Jesus if it was the Father’s will are also the first witnesses to the resurrection. In the midst of Jesus’ life and ministry we learn how God’s angels, his ever present servants provide comfort, reassurance and protection when most needed. Often their first announcement is the gift of peace, followed by the words, ‘do not be afraid’.
Today in our lives God’s messengers offer us the same hope as they accompany us on our journey through life, reassuring us that we are not alone. God embraces us in a love so complete he constantly watches over and guides us. They remind us how God reached out to those on the margins, to the outcast, social leper, like the stone rejected by the builders. The hope offered in the gospel preached by Christ reassured us that God is often to be found in the midst of suffering and pain associated which those who have been rejected and forgotten. Likewise as Christians, we have a responsibility to be messengers of God’s Word of acceptance and welcome to one another. As children on our heavenly Father we have to bring a message of hope and love into the lives of those we meet. Above all we have to be a living witness to God’ presence in the world, reassuring those we share our lives with that God remains with his people, guiding and protecting them always. We have to learn to be childlike again, daring to trust in God as a Father, being open to receive those people, those angels or messengers whom God sends into our lives to remind us of his love, care and compassion. Looking back through the years, I thank God for the people who have been the rays of light who have highlighted God’s grace and providence at work in the world. Those who have carried a message of hope through their witness, by the way they lived their lives in the service of a loving Father.