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Vol. II, Jun. 1996

 

Servant of God
Part II 

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

1. Whoever meditates the life of Abraham is touched by the purity and simplicity of his soul. Thanks to his silent detachment and constant prompt obedience towards God (Gen 12,3f), Abraham is a man at peace with God and of limitless kindness towards every man. This is how we meet him with his guests. This conquers the heart of God.

Behold confidential openness of the Divine Heart, in which we are privileged to assist, when we hear Him say: Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do ...? (Gen 18,17). This was not the first time, that God drew Abraham to His side, apart from man. Abraham heard the Angels say: Is anything too hard for the Lord? (v. 14). He, who is but dust and ashes (v. 27), looks up to His Lord and God and finds himself called to know God’s very thoughts, to be aware of God’s desires and expectations, to become familiar with the Heart of His Creator, to become one mind with God (cf. Phil 2,5). - This is a pregnant example of what God can have in mind with man. Did not each one of us, Christ’s priests, receive such a call? Should we not be a pontifex (bridge maker), at home on both sides of the river, familiar with man and God, - totally submitted to the will of God like Abraham, so that like the angels we can be messengers of God and defenders of His dignity and rights? God sees Abraham like the priest today: first a man of his confidence from whom he does not want to hide anything, and second a man concerned for all of mankind, father of a great and mighty nation, and a blessing for all the nations of the earth! To him God speaks of His "misery", of His sorrow and pain, the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah; with him God wants to share His plan: I will go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to Me (v. 20 f). The priest, like the angels, like Abraham, should be a confidant of God!

2. So the other two ‘men’ (angels) turned and went down to Sodom. Why did God share His thoughts with Abraham as He was about to depart? Was it not an invitation to take part in His plan, to share this terrible excursion with Him? Abraham had understood; standing before the Lord he drew near, he dared to speak, he who is but dust and ashes (v. 27).

We wonder, then, about his discourse; how diffident he was, in fact, he excuses himself four times for daring to speak thus. In dealing with God about the number of righteous souls necessary to save the entire cities, Abraham apparently contradicts God. Looking more closely, though, we see that he had listened most accurately to God’s word. We have in this dialogue, furthermore, a proof of Abraham’s intimacy with God!

(1) Abraham sensed God’s desire to find in Sodom at least some just men, for He wanted to verify, whether they have gone bad altogether ..., or if there was at least some who had preserved themselves from sin. - Abraham’s intervention referred to the number, and that was also God’s question: were they all given over to sin?

(2) While man, in such circumstances, commonly sees first the negative, pointing to faults and sinners (v. 20 f.) Abraham pays attention to the good, to the values instead to destruction! Far from contradicting God, he shows that he is thinking like God, that he looks on the world with the eyes of God. Through the questions he raised we assist at a kind of dialogue, an "interior divine reasoning", as it were, as if God were thinking by Himself (cf. Gen 6,5 ff.; 11,6); and in fact, Abraham was not rejected by God; each suggestion was accepted!

(3) Even if he seems to lend his voice to the cause of the minority of righteous of men, he speaks of God’s Justice and His sole desire and wish, namely, for the good! Directing attention to righteousness, Abraham touched God’s love and mercy which are attracted by everything that participates in the Divine Goodness. God does not ask as we men: is it justified that the good suffer with the evil? or: is it justified that the evil enjoy the benefits of the good? In the eyes of God a few good people are of greater value than many evildoers, such that for the sake of a few saints He is ready to save many sinners; for the sake of a few, true Christians He is willing to save the entire world: Wilt Thou then destroy the righteous with the wicked? - If I find at Sodom fifty (or suppose ten) righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake! (v. 26) - As a priest, we should be such a man of the divine confidence, totally familiar with His way of thinking, focusing on the good, saving sinners by forming some saints and being in intimate conversation with God for their sake!

3. We have yet to pay attention to our annual theme: to reflect on the Holy Angels in Scripture: Is Abraham speaking directly with God or with his visitors who are said to be angels (cf. Gen 19,1; Heb 13,2)? According to the theological content it seems that it must be God, for He alone decides salvation, but according the text it seems to be a dialogue with the angel. - This is one of several places in Scripture, where we are confronted with the problem of distinguishing the Angels and God (cf. esp. Ex 33,2; 33,14.19.22) and their mode of relationship.

After having seen Abraham’s familiarity with God, which enabled him to see and think as God does, it should be no difficulty to accept a more union of the Angels with God. This pertains to the divine revelation in connection with this text. The basic truths about the Holy Angels will help us understand this.

(1) The trial of the Angels, like that of man, consisted in the renunciation of their understanding out of greater love and trust in God: those passed the test who decided to surrender themselves totally to God by believing in His infallible Wisdom and by entrusting themselves to His Will Who knows only the good.

(2) Through this unique and decisive act of love for God the Angels were introduced by the grace of God into such a beatitude that they see God’s Essence immediately and directly. This means: God is so totally their light, their enthusiasm, their joy and happiness. Of course, in this, they retained their nature, but it was perfected by the Divine Glory. Consequently, notes St. Thomas, the Angels’ natural knowledge and love are infallibly harmonized with their glorified knowledge and love such that the Holy Angels no longer wish and act except in and through their supernatural union with God (cf. Summa Theol., I,62,7 ad 3 and 8c).

(3) It is this inseparable union between the Holy Angels and God yields such transparence to their words and actions that they can be attributed both to the Angel and to God. For this same reason God encourages man’s trust in the Angel with the words: My name is in him! (Ex 23,21) and proposes the angel to us as an model of sanctity by teaching us to pray: Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven! (Mt 6,10), that is, as the angels do (St. Thomas, In Matth. 6,10; Nr. 589).

This fundamental teaching on the Holy Angels, who are definitively confirmed in the state of Glory, explains why in the Scripture the Holy Spirit draw sharp distinctions between the discourse of God and His Angels: due to this transparent union in Glory it is not necessary; to do so would either question their union (as today's interpretations proves) or it would weaken the authority of their message (considering it as their own and not as God’s word)!

We may conclude: what we saw about Abraham’s confidence in God is confirmed in the case of the Angels due to the nature of their state of Glory and union with God; when God sends them on mission, they come literally in the name of God.

4. Dear Brothers in the priesthood! Whether we look to Abraham or to the Holy Angels, both are strong calls from God to grow in holy surrender to His Divine Will and in prayerful familiarity and confidential union of spirit with Him. This will also bear fruit in a more perfect service to the people of God, and contribute mightily towards their salvation

Let us, therefore, resolve in this month of the Sacred, Eucharistic Heart of Jesus:

- to live according the two models of priestly sanctity;

- to orientate our interests more towards eternity, especially by heeding the time and quality of our prayer-life;

- to flee the temptation to do our own will and ask for the Divine Will by the constant attentive reflection upon the Word of God; and

- to pray for the grace of true love for our neighbors (especially for our confreres in the priesthood) and of genuine solicitude for the needs of their souls.

May the intercession of Abraham and the inspiration of the Holy Angels make us an ever better priests according to the Heart of Jesus!

Fr. Titus Kieninger

 

For the discussion of the different solutions cf. W. Wagner, The Mission of the Holy Angels in the Economy of Salvation, Fatima, 1984, pp. 63-98.