Today’s readings: Tobit 5, Tobit 12, Revelation 12:7-12, Matthew 1:18-25
Today’s feast: Vigil of Ss. Raphael, Michael and Gabriel [Vigil Mass Celebrated for the School Children]
What is a hero? The dictionary tells us that heroes are people of great courage or ability, admired for their brave deeds and noble qualities. They are people who seem to be able to do more than we can possibly imagine, people who are bigger or stronger or smarter than everyone else. I remember when I was your age I admired Superman and Batman, and sports heroes like Dick Butkis and Mark Spitz who was a great Olympic swimmer. You probably have heroes too. Maybe your heroes are people like Brian Urlacher or fictional people like Lightening McQueen or Spiderman.
You may never get to meet any of these heroes, and many of them are imaginary, just people we see in the movies or on television. But I think the world gives us all kinds of heroes, people who may never be real famous but people who do ordinary things with great ability and who have values and a sense of right and wrong that is a great example to all of us. Today’s feast of the Archangels Raphael, Michael and Gabriel gives us a great look at heroic qualities that we see in the Angels, but might also see in other people.
Some heroes lighten the load for other people. Like St. Raphael, they are people who can walk with us on long journeys, real journeys or even on the journey we call life. They teach us things and help us to see new possibilities. They are the people we can go to when we have a problem. The person who will get up and help us in the middle of the night when we have a bad dream or aren’t feeling very well. The friend we can tell anything to: all of our fears and worries and dreams. The teacher who helps us find out that we have abilities and talents we never knew we had. The sister or brother who holds our hand when we’re scared. There are lots of angels like St. Raphael who journey with us and bring us safely home.
Some heroes keep us safe. Like St. Michael, they defend people who cannot defend themselves. The police officer who teaches you how to say no to drugs or who helps you cross the street or catches a thief. Firefighters or paramedics who rescue people who are in an accident or whose houses are on fire. Soldiers who fight for our freedom so that we won’t have to face terror near our homes. It might be the lawyer who defends someone who has been unjustly accused of a crime. It could be the person who reaches out to feed the poor or someone who fixes up homes for the homeless. There are lots of angels like St. Michael who keep us safe from anyone or anything that can harm us.
Some heroes speak the truth. Like St. Gabriel, they are people who proclaim the Gospel and are the voice of God for us. They are people who tell us things that we need to hear, even if we don’t necessarily want to hear them. They are prophets and preachers and ordinary folks who just give witness to their faith. The priest giving the homily. The teacher talking about our religion. The parent who teaches us right from wrong. The person who speaks out when our government or society is heading the wrong way. The one who urges us to serve the poor. Like St. Gabriel, there are lots of angels who speak the truth and are God’s voice in our world.
In our society today, it’s almost like we don’t need heroes at all. Science can explain so much of what might be mysterious in our world. But we still need heroes, and we need saints like Raphael, Michael and Gabriel to bring God’s protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. And we might never get to meet Brian Urlacher, Lightening McQueen or Spiderman, but chances are we know people who have been like angels to us. Chances are we have experienced the protection of the angels in all sorts of ways.