This is the beginning of a rather angelic week for us Catholics. Today we celebrate the feast of the archangels, and on Friday we will have the joy of honoring our guardian angels. We celebrate the way the angels protect and guide us and keep us on the path to Christ.
Many people think that when people die, they become angels. That’s not actually true. Angels are a different order of creation from human beings. There is a continuum of creation from things that are pure body, like a rock or lump of dirt, all the way to those who are pure spirit, which would be the angels. We are somewhere in between, being the highest and greatest of the bodies, and the lowest of the spirits. Everything has its place in creation, and was created the way God intended it.
So today we celebrate the highest of the highest of the Spirits: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the archangels. Each of these angels is specifically mentioned in Scripture. Michael is mentioned in today’s first reading from Revelation, as the protector of the heavens and the defender of the people of God. He is the patron of police officers, among others. Gabriel is the announcer of good news, and we know him from the story of the Annunciation to Mary of her pregnancy. Gabriel is the patron of communications workers, among other things. Raphael is mentioned in the book of Tobit, in what is a beautiful story. His purpose in that story is to protect Tobit on the journey to recover his family’s fortune and to introduce Tobit to Sarah, curing her of the despair she had over her last seven marriages, which all ended in death on the wedding night. Raphael also cured Tobiah, Tobit’s father, of blindness due to cataracts. Tobit and Sarah get married and live happily ever after, which is why it’s such a great story. Raphael is the patron of travelers, among other things.
All three of these angels, Raphael, Michael and Gabriel, came to make God’s presence known on earth in some way. St. Raphael came to be Tobiah’s guide and to bring God’s healing to Tobit and Sarah. St. Michael came to defend God’s people against evil and danger. St. Gabriel came to bring good news about the Incarnation and the Salvation we would have in Christ.
But you know, their ministry continues to this day. There are indeed angels among us. I think St. Raphael is still here, keeping us safe when we go on long journeys and, more importantly, helping us to stay on the path to God. He might be here, too, working through the hands of doctors and nurses and physical therapists, and all kinds of healers, to bring sick people back to health. St. Michael is still here, working through police officers and fire fighters and all kinds of public safety people, in order to keep our communities safe, and St. Michael also works through those who defend the Church against all kinds of evil. St. Gabriel is still here among us, raising up prophets in our midst; working through parents and teachers and priests and ministers when they bring us news about God and preach the Gospel.
We know a little bit about all these angels because of today’s feast. But I don’t think those stories are finished just yet. I think the angels are still working among us, guiding us, healing us, defending us, and bringing us good news. The angels are probably working through people you know. They’re even working through you whenever you help someone else. The truth is, I don’t think we would live very safe and happy lives if it weren’t for the angels among us. Today we should thank God for Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and for all the people who cooperate with those angels in all their work.