This is the week of “angels” on Friday we’ll be celebrating “the guardian angels” and today we have three “archangels” meaning they are angels who proclaim messages of supreme importance. The beautiful thing about angels and the three we celebrate today is that they are mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. And a little Hebrew lesson, so the word “el” is one of the words in Hebrew for God. So “angel” is messenger of God” – Michael -means “who is like God” Gabriel – means “God is strong” and Raphael means “God heals”.
In Judaism there was such a reverence of talking about God, there was such an awe of Him that they were cautious about ever uttering sacred names referring to Him. For example, when Jesus says of himself in the Gospels “I Am” – the words that God spoke to Moses in identifying Himself in the burning bush, that was considered a blasphemy…it was one of the reasons the Jewish leaders demanded Jesus be crucified (they didn’t recognize that He was indeed “I Am” that He was God incarnate) Another example though – you might have heard in the past there were hymns or prayers that would refer to God using the letters Y – H – W – H. It was a lack of understanding that some took those 4 consonants – which were not meant to be made into a word – and did precisely that… They made that into a name for God that was spoken, used in hymns, etc. Which fortunately, thanks to Bishop Seratelli, the retired Bishop of Patterson that was corrected only a few years ago. God’s name was so Holy, so sacred that those letters Y – H- W- H were meant to convey that that it was not even able to be pronounced.
So angels not only are sacred creatures that serve God and God’s creation, in Judaism they were mediators for the people and enabled them to speak of God and His activity among them somewhat removed – a sacred distance. Talking about God directly but indirectly through His sacred creatures, through His messengers… In very specific and dramatic ways, we highlight today these three who are identified in scripture: Gabriel – “The Strength of God” is seen speaking to Daniel in the Old Testament to give him understanding… he appears in the New Testament to announce the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. Raphael restores sight to Tobit and heals Sarah of a demon… and Michael is seen assisting Daniel in the Old Testament and is found in the very short book of Jude in the New Testament and in Revelation combating the Devil (which is why we continue to invoke his assistance at the end of Mass for his protection as we embark on having to do that on a regular basis as we leave this sacred space)
In Jesus, God has become Man. The incarnation has brought God so intimately close to us, and for us as Catholics who receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist, that miraculous gift has in a sense brought a familiarity, a casualness that we lose a sense of the importance that angels had played prior to Jesus’ coming… and even more shockingly, a lack of reverence and blasphemous way of speaking and talking and using God’s name that would’ve been unthinkable to our Jewish ancestors.
May these sacred creatures, these sacred mysteries help us recapture some of that awe and reverence our ancient ancestors had for our God and bring us to greater worship and gratitude that in Jesus, Heaven comes to earth, we can invoke His sacred name, we have His divine presence and assistance readily accessible and available to us.