Emulating the Angels

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.

I sit and wait: does an angel contemplate my fate?
Look into his angel eyes: one look and you’re hypnotised

Precious angel under the sun: how was I to know you’d be the one?
Girl, you’re my angel: you’re my darling angel

When we talk about angels, what do you imagine? Is it the chubby cheeked cherub like cupid, flying over people?

Do you think of a sort of disembodied spirit – when we talk about thoe who have left this life becoming like angels?

It’s quite popular these days to talk of angels as spiritual beings we can commune with, even for people who reject the idea of a god. If you look in any library or the religion section of a charity shop, the chances are that you’ll find books telling you about the angels who watch over us, who predict our future, who send us lovers, or whatever.

None of these things, though, really describe what the Christian faith teaches us about

angels – the spirits of God who serve him. There are many kinds that we hear of: from the seraphim around the throne of God – Isaiah tells us that “each one had six wings – with two they covered their face, with two they covered their feet, with two they flew” – to the figures who were sent to God’s chosen ones in the Scriptures.

If we as humans are the children of God, his sons and daughters, then the angels are his servants. The angels are always seen in the service of God. The word Angel, St. Gregory tells us, denotes their job, rather than their “species,” for want of a better word.

The word angel means “messenger” – and much of the time that is what we see the angels doing – bringing messages from God, either in word or in deed.

At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel was sent by God. In our reading from Revelation, the Archangel Michael was sent to battle with Satan. In the book of Tobit Raphael is sent by God to accompany Tobias, and to heal Tobit.

So angels are God’s servants. They’re good – but that doesn’t make them cuddly or cute, like you see on Valentine’s Day cards.

Many of the instances we have in the Bible of people meeting angels results in them being terrified. Think of the shepherds in the hills outside Bethlehem, or Mary and Zacharias when Gabriel came to them.

But of course, let’s not forget the words of the Angel to the Shepherds, and to Mary: do not be afraid! What the reaction of Mary, and the Shepherds, teaches us is that the angels, servants of God, are not something to be taken lightly, they’re not to be “used” like some new age spiritualities describe. They’re servants of

God, and we shouldn’t try to think of them as “tools”.

But, because they are God’s servants, then they shouldn’t be a reason to be afraid. Rather, we should look to them as a kind of example: they spend their time – whatever tasks may be seen to be given them – in the service and worship of God. What if we were the same – what if, even when we were at work or on the golf course, our minds were set on God’s will?

St. Michael the Archangel is best known for leading the fight against Satan. In our baptismal vows, we declare that we rejected the Devil

and all rebellion against God. We can imitate Michael and live out our baptismal vows by fighting against the injustices we see in our world, both further afield and closer to home.

St. Raphael the archangel defends Tobias and heals Tobit. We can stand up for and defend those who cannot defend themselves – those most vulnerable in our society; and we can work to heal the wounds, emotional and spiritual, of those around us, and those wounds gaping so large in our society at the moment.

St. Gabriel the archangel proclaimed the conception of John the Baptist to Zachariah,

and told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. We, too, can proclaim the good news and the faith we hold to.

Of course, there is another way in which we will shortly imitate, and join with the angels: we will join their hymn sung around the throne of God. As they cry out to God, so will we: Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might: heaven and earth are full of your glory.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Amen.