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Daily Missal Reflection

Creighton U. Daily Reflection

September 29, 2022
by Molly Mattingly
Creighton University's Campus Ministry and St. John's Parish
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels
Lectionary: 647

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 OR Revelation 12:7-12ab
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
John 1:47-51

Praying Ordinary Time

 

How the Ordinary Time Readings Are Organized and Can Help our Prayer

[This reflection first appeared in Creighton Daily Reflections on Sept. 29, 2021]

I don’t have a very clear grasp of angelology. I think about how the pop culture I have consumed portrays angels. Sometimes they are like superpowered aliens, whether benevolent, power-hungry, or naïve. Sometimes they portray reflections of humanity. Then I think about angels in church culture and scripture, including in today’s readings. Angels are non-corporeal spiritual beings according to the catechism (#328), unlike us humans who are corporeal spiritual beings. Sometimes they are protectors, like the statues on churches and Guardian Angels. Sometimes they are joyful, gentle, and comforting, like in the funeral prayers when they greet and lead souls into paradise. Often they are cosmically powerful, like Michael and the hosts (armies) of heaven fighting against Satan in an option for today’s first reading. When they show up, the first thing they often say is “be not afraid,” which implies that the natural first reaction to seeing them is fear. (C. S. Lewis proposed in his Cosmic Trilogy that angels, as cosmically powerful spiritual beings, have trouble appearing in forms that aren’t terrifyingly beyond human experience on earth.) At the Nativity the angels point the shepherds to Christ and sing the first carol, “Glory to God in the highest!” which, along with their song “Holy, holy, holy” in Revelation, we are invited to join them in singing at every Sunday Mass and feast day. Nearly always, they are worshipping and praising God and Christ, like in the readings from Revelation, Psalm 138, and the Gospel of John today.

I may not have a lot of angelology, but I love etymology, especially etymology of names. The word “angel” comes from the Hebrew word “messenger.” The angels in scripture are messengers for God, or their appearance points people to God and Christ. The ones who are named, like the archangels of today’s feast, communicate something about God in their names. Michael is the protector of Israel in Daniel and the leader of heaven’s armies in today’s reading from Revelation. And yet, for such a powerful being, Michael does not claim power. His name points beyond himself to God in a rhetorical question: “Who is like God?” Raphael appears as Tobiah’s traveling companion in the book of Tobit. Raphael – “God heals” – leads Tobiah not just to cure his father Tobit’s optical blindness, but to healing relationships through his journey. Finally, Gabriel most clearly acts as a messenger, interpreting prophecies of Daniel and announcing the births of both John the Baptist and Jesus. In Islamic tradition, Gabriel also dictated the Qur’an to Muhammad. But Gabriel’s name means “God is my strong one” or “God is my hero,” pointing to dependence on God. I find it especially beautiful that “God is my strong one” receives Mary’s “yes” to complete dependence on God, and that he announces God’s arrival as an infant, utterly dependent on human parents, not strong at all. It lays the foundation for Paul’s line: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

We join the choirs of angels and the communion of saints in praising God every time we participate in the Eucharistic liturgy. “In the sight of the angels [we] will sing your praises, Lord!” (Psalm 138:1) Today, I invite you to consider how you might follow in the archangels’ paths of praise. How might you point beyond yourself, giving God the glory even for the things you do? How might you offer or ask for God’s healing – for your own wounds, for our Church, for the world? How might you practice dependence on God, letting God be your strong one?

Calling All Angels (The Wailin’ Jennies)

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mollymattingly@creighton.edu

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