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Vol.III, May ’97

 

To Guard and Lead in My Name (Ex 23,20)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

The covenant of Sinai made us aware of the personal responsibility of every single person before God and further, in conformity with liturgical usage, reminds us of our duty towards our Guardian Angel, whom God has sent to be at our side. He is a living mediator between God and each one of us. Through him God is very near to us: I am with you through an Angel.

The Guardian Angel acts for us like an amplifier, like a telescope or like a hearing aid. In talking with another person we cannot see if he hears us directly or through an hearing aid, so can we not sitinguish in our communication with God if He communicates with us directly or, as it is in fact, through His angelic servants. It is, as it were, a criteria for any good mediator: the less he is observed the better he fulfills his task. The holy Angel is a pure spirit and, therefore, invisible to us; he is totally dedicated to God and, therefore, he hides himself with humility in any way possible in communicating the majesty of God to man. If we do not pay particular attention, we will not realize who it is who serves us with so much patient solicitude and faithfulness and to whom we owe so many favors!

Let us, therefore, reflect once more upon the text which is read in the Liturgy of the Feast of the Guardian Angels (2nd of Oct.) at Lauds and at Holy Mass. What does this text say about our Guardian Angel?

It reads as follows: "I send an Angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared"; in terms of the Catechism: "Beside each believer stands an Angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life" (CCC 336). At the same time the Lord warns: "He will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him!" The Angel is shown as the advocate of God, defending His rights, that is, God’s rights!

1. First, we see the Angel as a protector : at the side of man he fights against his enemies. The Sacred Text states explicitly: "I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries" (v. 22). Thus, in the Angel God places Himself on the side of man, at the side of the Apostles and of every single soul. And about any living member of the Mystical Body who are members of Christ Himself, He says: "As you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Mt 25,40.45).

To the Apostles Jesus would later say: "He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me" (Lk 10,16). Thus, in their own sphere of influence, Angels and apostles, are participants in the authority of God! Our Lord communicates to them not only a share in His authority but also a share in His power. When the apostles returned after their first mission, He exclaimed: "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you" (Lk 10,18-19).

When we consider that the devil was cast to the earth (cf. Apoc 12,9), and that he makes war upon the children of the Woman (Mother Church), we might be filled with dread. Through St. Paul, God exhorts all Christians: " Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God" (Eph 6,11-13). To this armor of God belongs the Angel He sets at our side our whole life long, "from infancy to death" (CCC 336); and through him every Christian "will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot," for God "will give His Angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways" (Ps 91,13.11). The Angel is to be our protector. The role of St. Raphael in the life of Tobias shows that the Angel is not just a protector before physical dangers or damages (cf. Acts 27,23-24), but also a protector before spiritual dangers and attacks of the fallen spirits (cf. Tob 8). Believing in the Angel of God at our side, does not create an illusion of being already in heaven. It makes us aware of the reality that our life is a pilgrimage from sinfulness to sanctity, from the valley of temptations to the beatitude in heaven. Therefore, the Lord demands of us that we "heed the Angel and to hearken to his voice." Does this not correspond to the watchfulness which the Lord requires in the Gospel: "Watch!" (Mt 24,42; 25,13).

2. The second task of the Guardian Angel of man is that of a "Shepherd" or Guide: "... to bring you to the place that I have prepared". Man needs help in this life; he is short-sighted already by nature and even more so after having fallen into sin. Here, God speaks of the Angel as more than just an interpreter of His Will for the present moment. He leads us to a goal and this requires the continuity of his guidance during the entire life of the protegé. The office of the Guardian Angel is a task which endures.

The "place" which God promised in this text to the people of Israel was the "Promised Land." In terms of the New Testament and applied to the individual guided by his Guardian Angel, it is certainly a promise of guidance to heaven, the eternal destiny. And we may also understand included in this guidance the knowledge of one’s personal vocation to a state of life, since this pertains to the spiritual path or way upon which the Angel leads his protegé. In this wise, the Angel Raphael helped Tobias find a wife (cf. Tob 6,11-18); similarly, Moses received the call to his prophetical mission through the Angel (Ex 3,2 ff.), Samson too was called to become a "Nasir - consecrated to God" by the mandate of the Angel (cf. Judg 13 and Num 6).

Though the Angel does not know the whole future of his protegé (cf. Mk 13,32); still he guides him in the present concrete moment by the light of inspirations which he receives from God. The counsels of the holy angel are always in absolute conformity with the will of God. Whoever with discernment listens and attends to the guiding light of the angel can walk confidently for he is thus constantly preparing himself for the future known to God. This inspires in us an immense confidence and trust toward the Angel, and gives us a sense of security in the midst of the darkness of this life: What can happen to those who love God and have an Angel as their companion?

3. In the third place, God presents here the Angel as the defender of the divine rights: "He will not pardon your transgression!" God promises man the help of the Angel and, with reason, demands from man respect for the Angel, obedience and strict accounting: "Heed him, do not rebel against him!" However, there is much more: God practically identifies Himself with the Angel: "My name is in him!" and, "if you hearken attentively to h i s voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries" (Ex 23,22).

Here appears the true effect of the sanctity of the Angel: having emptied himself, all that is in him is of God! His words are the words God asks him to say; his actions are those God asks him to fulfill. For us, then, listening to and collaborating with him means listening and collaborating with God, to have the Almighty and His defensive power on our side. It follows also: to refuse the Angel obedience means to refuse God’s holy Will! Now, such an offence against his Lord and God, the Angel cannot forgive; only the one offended can do this, God Himself!

The meaning of this can be seen in the Gospel of St. Luke, where Zechariah withstands the Angel. St. Gabriel does not insist on his own authority, but, yes, on that of God: "I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you!" (Lk 1,19). It is possible to offend the Guardian Angel in his own dignity which requires respect, but he, in his own person, will not take offense when we do not follow his advice, when we forget about him or fail in respect. Like Christ he is indulgent in the case of offenses committed against himself, but he is most zealous for the honour due to God. He is disappointed and offended by our disobedience, because of the dishonor we refuse to God by acting so! It is true, the Angels did not experience the mercy of God in their trial, and can never do so. It is also true, that we priests are "ministers of reconciliation" (Directory, 51-54). And yet, this angelic defense of "the rights of God", of which the Holy Father speaks, should make us reflect in a time such as ours in which the sense and forms of reverence are being lost more and more.

4. These then are the three missions of the Angel: He bows down to man in his misery protecting him and guiding him, and he makes God present in his divine authority. When we entrust ourselves totally to God and to His faithful servant, we shall be strengthened in our faith and trust in His Omniscience and Omnipotence. With God there is no "space" for "chance"! We know that in every moment of life and "in everything God works for good with those who love Him" (Rom 8,28). Let us strengthen each other, then, and the faithful in our belief in the Guardian Angels!

Let us renew our awareness of the presence of the Angel at our side and give him greater opportunity to help us by reviving our friendship with him. "God our Father, in Your loving providence You send Your holy Angels to watch over us. Hear our prayers, defend us always by their protection and let us share Your life with them for ever. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC