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Vol. VI, January 2000

 

"God With Us" Through the Angel (cf. Book Tobias)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Now we enter the Jubilee 2000 and celebrate with all believers the Coming of God among men, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. To explain it to St. Joseph, the holy Angel recalled the prophet's word: "His name shall be called Emmanuel, which means, God with us" (Mt 1,23; Is 7,14).

1. That is, the Incarnation of the Son of God is the great light which should enlighten our life: God manifested himself to us! God came to us! God is and remains with us!

a) Of course, God is everywhere by his knowledge; nothing escapes his "eyes". He is present with each single creature by his will; nothing ever happens if it is not willed by him. He is present with all his might; no creature would exist if it were not kept in existence by him. "If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!" Wherever I might go, "thou art there" and "thy right hand shall hold me!" (Ps 139,7-12). Though, "ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made" (Rom 1,20), still it was when he became man, that his contemporaries could say: "That, which ... we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life ... which was with the Father and was made manifest to us" (1 Jn 1,1-2).

b) How much more true is it now after the Incarnation of Christ, that which God had said already through Moses about his Word: "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us ...?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us ...?' But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart ...!" (Dt 30,11-14). How much more is it true now, that which was said in times past to the Chosen People: "What great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?" (Dt 4,7)! How much more now with the birth of Christ, the "Emmanuel, God with us" can we believe that He is the "I am Who is here" with you! (cf. Ex 3,14).

2. Mighty and trustworthy witnesses of "God with us" are the holy Angels: "The earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. ... Let the earth fear the Lord, let all inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!" "The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them!" (Ps 33,5-6.8; 34,7).

a) The first intention of the holy Angels is to give witness to God as is evident from few angelic names we know from holy Scripture. Michael's "name is a synthesis that expresses the essential attitude of good spirits. 'Mica-EL' in fact means: 'Who is like God?'. In this name, therefore, we find expressed the salvific choice thanks to which the Angels 'see the face of the Father' who is in Heaven. The second is Gabriel: a figure bound especially to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God (cf. Lk 1,19-26). His name means: 'my power is God' or 'power of God', as if to say that the culmination of creation, the Incarnation is the supreme sign of the omnipotent Father. Finally, the third Archangel is called Raphael. 'Rafa-EL' means: 'God heals'. He is made known to us by the story of Tobias in the Old Testament (cf. Tob 12,15-20 etc.) which is so significant for what it says about entrusting to the Angels the little children of God, who are always in need of custody, care, and protection" (John Paul II, General Audience, August 6, 1986, nr. 8). Each holy Angel, in his bliss before the throne of God, has no other desire than to serve God, he does not wish to know anything which is not God or of God, which does not come from God or lead to God. If an Angel acts in creation, he does only as mediator ascending and descending between creatures and God and between God and creatures. And so we can say: each holy Angel makes God present with us.

3. The meditations on the historical books of the OT showed us God with the Chosen People through the Angels. The book of Tobit describes the life of a family which forcefully witnesses to the truth that God is with us through the Angels. This book shall serve us as a manual for this theme of the Jubilee, perhaps throughout the entire year.

St. John states in his description of the Incarnation: "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not" (Jn 1,11; cf. 1 Jn 2,22f; 4,2f.). God wants no coercion but man's free collaboration. The holy Angels share this divine respect before man's freedom; it is expressed by the Psalmist, "The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him" (Ps 34,7).

a) In Tobit we find a man with many dispositions required for the working of the Angels in the life of man, requirements which we found and pointed out in former meditations, for example, in the faith of Abraham, in the purity of David through his repentance, in the prayer of Hezekiah, in the humility and confidence of Judith and in the fidelity of the Maccabees. Thus Tobit exclaims: "I, Tobit, walked in the ways of truth and righteousness all the days of my life, and I performed many acts of charity to my brethren and countrymen, ... All the tribes that joined in apostasy used to sacrifice to the calf of Baal, ... but I alone went often to Jerusalem for the feasts, as it is ordained for all Israel by an everlasting decree. Taking the first fruits..., I would give these to the priests" (1,3.5f.) "I was left an orphan ... When I was carried away captive to Nineveh..., I remembered God with all my heart" (1,9-12). "I would give my bread to the hungry and my clothing to the naked; and if I saw any one of my people dead... I would bury him" (1,17). We see the purity of his soul, especially when he lifts up his heart to God, saying, "Righteous are Thou, o Lord; all Thy deeds and all Thy ways are mercy and truth, and Thou dost render true and righteous judgment for ever. Remember me and look favorably upon me." (3,2f.) "Blessed is God Who lives for ever ... and there is no one who can escape his hand. Acknowledge him before the nations, O sons of Israel... Make his greatness known there, and exalt him in the presence of all the living ... Cursed are all who hate you; blessed for ever will be all who love you... They will rejoice in your peace" (13,1-3.12-14).

b) In all aspects of daily life, Tobit gives an example of the fear of the Lord. He is a man who lives out of faith; he has God before his eyes. This, then, is shown by his most natural belief in the attentive and active presence of God through his Angels. One day, he had to send his son to the distant city of Rages in Media. He sought to provide for his safety by seeking out a trustworthy companion for him. And when his son set out on the journey with this companion, his father counseled his son: "Go with this man; God who dwells in heaven will prosper your way, and may his Angel attend you" (5,16). And when his wife "began to weep, and said to Tobit, 'Why have you sent our child away?...' Tobit said to her, 'Do not worry, my sister; he will return safe and sound, and your eyes will see him. For a good Angel will go with him; his journey will be successful" (5,17-21). All the while, he did not know the true identity of Raphael, the Angel. His faith told him, that God is with those who fear him through his Angels.

4. Dear Brothers in the priesthood, the belief in Angels is part of a healthy piety, always together with a joyful confidence which is glad to praise God. God's fatherly care and love sends them to be with us.

Tobit shows a harmonious attitude through a heart undividedly surrendered to God. This undivided heart must be the single source for the love of God and neighbor, it must guide us in our private and pastoral life. The same love ought to motivate us in all things. This must be so even more now since God has become man: Heaven is already open; we are walking in the presence of God, and can rest in the conviction, that God is here for us. He is with us in many ways, and one way is through his Angels.

The holy Angels do not just come as messengers of a foreign God, who is far away in heaven and apparently so remote in his immensity as the creator over all creatures. They are not just the powers of the omnipotent Lord, they are also the humble and silent helpers of the saving God who by his love comes near us. Let us strive for simplicity of heart in a devoted life; this will keep us in the presence of God and under the powerful protection of the holy Angels. - May each one of you experience it in every day of the New Year and be lead by them deeper into his presence!

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC