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Vol. V, July 1999

 

The Angel Slew 185,000 (2 Kings 19,35)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

How significant and true is the name of St. Michael, "Who is like God!" It is a deep expression of faith, which also includes what we meditated the past month: "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them!", we are with the majority! We are allied with the better soldiers!

The prophet Elisha saw the "horses and chariots of fire", the king of Israel trusted in the words of the prophet; the servant of the prophet, however, had difficulty in believing. In fact, there is a vast gulf between preaching the faith and believing the mysteries, and again between theory and practice, between believing and trusting in what we believe and living accordingly. The name of St. Michael — "Who is like God!" — assures us that he believed and lived with all his being; he stood firm on the basis of this act of faith. To grow towards this angelic integrity, the chosen people were led again and again into serious difficulties.

1. One of these came from the king of Assyria who threatened Hezekiah, the king of Judah, and "sent the Tartan ... with a great army" to take Jerusalem. There he shouted out to the people of Jerusalem in a loud voice: "Do not let Hezekiah deceive you ..., do not let Hezekiah make you rely on the Lord by saying, 'The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria'" (2 Kings 18,19.28ff). Hezekiah, however, "rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. And he sent ... to the prophet Isaiah" with the humble petition: "Lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left" (19,1-2.5). Hezekiah prayed before the Lord: 'O Lord the God of Israel, Who art enthroned above the Cherubim, Thou art the God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. ... the kings of Assyria have destroyed nations ... and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were no gods, but work of man's hands, wood and stone; therefore they were destroyed. So now, o Lord our God, save us, I beseech Thee, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou, o Lord, art God alone" (v. 10f.15-19). Through the prophet Isaiah, Hezekiah received the answer of the Lord, "'The king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city ... For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.' And that night the Angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when they arose early in the morning, they beheld all the dead bodies. Then Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed and went home. And [there] his sons, slew him with the sword" (v.32-37).

2. a) The king of Israel did not trust in himself or in his authority over the people, falsely estimating his position. He asked humbly for prayer, but prayed also by himself which shows his right intention. And to his prayers he added penance. "A broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps 51(50),17). The most powerful weapon does not help at all, if we do not know how to use it, and the greatest friend is no support if we do not know how to approach him. The king believed in God as the true King of this world; he respected God's friends and asked the Saints for help; he also humbled himself. Renouncing all self-trust, he recognized his personal nothingness and his office as pure stewardship from God. He opened himself as a mendicant before his benefactor, so that God could apply His power and manifest His authority.

"This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no want!" (Ps 34(33),6-9).

b) God is never obliged by law or justice to attend to His creatures; but much stronger in His eyes is the law of love and fidelity. If He once promised His love and attention, He keeps His word. Therefore He says through the prophet, "I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake!" How often He stated and renewed His choice for Israel: "You are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Dt 14,2). If God speaks once like this, He puts His hand upon such a nation and considers it His own; He does not permit some one else to destroy what is His. In fact, holiness does not just mean union with God, THE HOLY ONE, but also participation in His sovereignty as we see in Mary, who, full of grace, remained untouched by any sin, also in the Holy Church which enjoys indestructibility (cf. Mt 16,18) or in the Holy Father with the grace of infallibility, etc. Whoever, therefore, touches what God has declared His, such one touches Him, and He will defend it as He would defend Himself. The aggressor has to count on God's reaction as He fortold:

"Behold I send an Angel before you, to guard you on the way and ... if you hearken attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries ... and I blot them out" (Ex 23,20-25).

Whoever, therefore, sets out against those who belong to God, such a one sets out against God Himself. As St. Raphael instructed Tobit and Tobias: "Those who commit sin are the enemies of their own lives" (Tob 12,10; cf. Gn 4,11-12; ... 2 Petr 2,1).

c) God is love and has special affections for those who love Him. As Hezekiah wanted to defend Jerusalem with the temple in its center, which David built, God watched with special care over the people of Israel: "I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake and for the sake of My servant David". Nevertheless, the prayer of the king of Israel and the people, was necessary because of God's respect before man's free will. When surrendered humbly to God, God sends His ministers, the Angels. He himself destroyed the letter of threat which Hezekiah received (v.14). As He answered the prayer of Israel in Egypt by the mission of the "Destroyer", and that of Elijah by the mediation of an Angel, and as the Father sent an Angel to strengthen Jesus in the Garden, so too did He send an Angel to free His people in this instance.

3. The Angel’s action was tremendous: "That (same) night the Angel of the Lord went forth, and slew a hundred an eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians; and when he arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies" (v. 35). Scripture recalls frequently this astonishing intervention (cf. 2 Chr 32,20f; Sir 48,21; Is 37,36).

a) All the earth lies open before God. He can act in many ways. Yet, even the greatest interventions He entrusts to His servants: "At midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt" through the Destoyer (Ex 12,23.29); He made the enemy flee through the "sound of a great army", just produced in the ears of the enemy, which is a typical angelic work (cf 2 Kings 7,6 and St. Thomas, ST I,111, 3-4). Again, did not seventy thousand people die within three days before the outstretched hand of the Angel (cf. 2 Sam 24,15ff.)? St. John describes an Angel "coming down from heaven, ... and the earth was made bright with his splendor" (Rev 18,1). Of another one He says: He "blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, which fell on the earth; and a third of the earth was burnt up ..." (Rev 8,7). In the Twentieth Century, it seems easy to imagine the Angels with such power, when the small mind of man can already send communications instantly from one extreme of the earth to the other, or is able to destroy entire cities at once with atomic weapons or just destroy the inhabitants with biological arms. We do not know how an Angel can cause such an effect, but believe that it lies within his power!

b) The whole material world has been entrusted to the administration of the Angels. John Henry Newman stated once in a sermon: "I considered them (the Angels) as the real causes of motion, light and life, and of those elementary principles of the physical universe, which, when offered in their developments to our senses, suggest to us the notion of cause and effect, and of what are called the laws of nature" (Apologia pro vita sua, ch.1). They secure the "net of the universe"; if they move a bit, planets fall out of their course, harmony turns into disaster. They are totally faithful to God, Who in reaction to man's arrogant behavior may give them special orders; in such moments, 185.000 men can die.

4. Dear Bothers in the priesthood! We are soldiers like the Angels, who form the army of God! We have to think about the power of the holy Angels as a simple illustration of the omnipotence of God, and about the key-function and the power of our prayer.

During World War II, in the native town of St. Nicolaus of Flüeli († 1487), the peacemaker and patron of Switzerland, when the pastor heard that the Nazis were on the march to Switzerland, he started to pray with the children of the village day and night. In three days time, the German tanks at the border could not be brought to move any more. Even the change of fuel ordered by headquarters in Nürnberg availed to nothing. The tanks stood still, that is until the command was given to withdraw, only then did the tanks work fine!

The Catholic Church of an entire nation in Africa under the guidance of its bishops, is presently engaged to pray for the end of corruption in their country, an impossible goal by nature, yet possible by God through His Angels touching the minds and hearts of men.

How much could Blessed Padre Pio accomplish through his collaboration with his holy Angel (see e.g. Ch.M.Carty, Padre Pio. The Stigmatist, TAN; Rockford)! Those who humble themselves before God will reign; they unite their weakness with His strength. Sincere humility is the heroism and the price of the saintly, powerful priests.

Dear Brothers, do we trust in God our Father? Do we believe in the literal truth of His promises? Do we pastors fight on our knees for our community as the king of Israel did for his people? Do we esteem ourselves as the servants of the Most High and of the Lord of the Angel hosts? Do we highly esteem those moments in which we are in audience with Him, during the holy sacrifice of the Mass, during our silent hour before the tabernacle, during our meditation, and when we are rejuvenated and restored in the sacrament of penance?

Let us serve faithfully like the Angels! Then God will fulfill His plan of salvation through His angelic ministers and us, His unworthy servants. Let us live daily under the light of the Angel's word, constantly repeated: "Do not be afraid! Do not fear!" (v. 6).

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC