September 29 – The Archangels

Today we celebrate Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. God created lots of angels, so that they might enjoy, share and manifest His glory. Within this multitude, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael hold special rank as archangels. The angels and archangels are like us in important ways, but in other ways they’re very different.

Just like us, God did not create the angels to fulfill some need He had. God needs nothing to be happy and complete. God made heaven and earth, all that is seen and unseen, out of sheer love, overflowing. God created us because love likes to share.

Just like us, God created the angels as persons. We are persons because we both have intellect and will, the capacity to know and the ability to freely choose. Just like us, angels are persons, having souls which will never die. But unlike us, angels don’t have a physical body united to their soul. Instead of body and spirit, angels are spirit alone.

Like us, angels know things and choose things. Like us, they’re made for interpersonal-communion. They interact with God, with each other, with us, and our world. But like God, and unlike us, angels live outside of time. We humans grow, and change, and mature, day by day. We’re incomplete and we develop over time. We can choose holiness one day, choose to sin the next, and on the day after that, think better of it, repent, go to confession, and return to God. But in the case of angels, their natures are complete and finished. And the free choices they’ve made once are made for all time. That is why the angels are forever sinless creatures, and why the demons, who are the angels who chose to rebel and were cast down from heaven, will never turn back to God.

We do not know exactly why Satan and the many demons fell, but it is clear that they did not, in their sinful pride, want the roles in God’s kingdom which God had prepared for them. Some speculate that when the angels where created, God gave them some knowledge of His plans for the human race. God wished the angels to share in this plan, but, for some reason, some refused to serve.

Perhaps it was the scandal of the Incarnation, the idea that the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, would take on material flesh. Maybe they refused to worship the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, in such a state as that. Perhaps, filled with pride about their own glory, which was entirely God’s gift, they refused to be Christ-like and serve creatures they deemed to be inferior to themselves.

Whatever the reason for it, a war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels battled against Satan. Satan and his angels fought back, but they did not prevail. The demons wanted to be like God, but without God. Perhaps Michael challenged them with the meaning of his name, “Who is like God?” They wanted to be God, but without God, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.

And now we arrive at the lesson we learn from the demons’ Fall that I want you to take to heart…

When the demons refused to be what they were made and called by God to be, they became something far less than what they were meant to be. By turning away from God, the source of their life, they became stupid, ugly, and weak compared to what they should have been.

Compared to what God makes us, calls us, and longs for us to be, sin makes us stupid, ugly, and weak too.

Do you have any sins?

Every Tuesday I sit in my office as much time as can, from the end of morning Mass until 3:00 PM, when prayers are offered in the Columbus chapel that God the Father would have mercy on us. I’ve spent hours at my desk, behind my confessional screen, catching up various work. And in all that time, not a single student has come for the sacrament that reconciles sinners with our Lord Jesus Christ. Now don’t think that I’m angry about this. Tuesdays for me as they are now are very productive days. I get a lot done behind my desk. But I would very much prefer, that so many of you would come, to the healing forgiveness, and strengthening graces, that Jesus is waiting to give you in this sacrament, that I would get nothing else done.

I want you to come to the sacrament that cleans your slate and lightens your heart. I want you to come to the sacrament that makes you wiser, stronger, and more attractive as a person than you are when you’re in sin. I want you to come to the sacrament of reconciliation, not for my sake, but for your sake.

Through the intercession of St. Raphael, whose name means “God’s healing,” may we believe in God’s power to heal our wounds. Through the intercession of St. Gabriel, whose name means “God’s power,” may we believe in God’s power to recreate the repentant sinner. And through the intercession of St. Michael, may we consider “who is like God,” who shows mercy to all who come to Him.

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