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Vol. VI, March 2000

 

The Angel - One of Our Brothers (cf. Tob 5,4 ff.)

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

Chapter three of the Book Tobit refers to the prayer of Tobit and Sarah as "being heard… ", and reports that "the holy Angel of the Lord, Raphael, was sent to heal them both." Then in the following chapters, on the basis of this union through prayer, we hear the proper story: the humble request of man joins the friendly readiness of the Angel, and the loving Providence of God sending the Angel to bring healing of both body and soul.

1. Tobit confident that his prayer for death was heard gave as an inheritance to his son Tobias, spiritual counsels: "Hear, my son, the words of my mouth, and lay them as a foundation in thy heart"(4,2) …, "So, my son, remember my commands, and do not let them be blotted out of your mind. And now let me explain to you about the ten talents of silver which I left in trust with Gabael at Rages in Media. Do not be afraid, my son, because we have become poor. You have great wealth if you fear the Lord and refrain from every sin and do what is pleasing in His sight." (4,23). Tobias then asked his father, how can I do this, I know not the way…? Here is the lesson God shows us: that not only complete trust in Him is required but that in His loving Providence we accept those means by which He sends us help whether it be by man or angel. We must not be afraid to show our weakness to others; but humbly acknowledge our needs with the goal of receiving help. Tobit accepts the fact that he is aged and blind and that his son lacks any experience required for such a journey. So he said to Tobias: "My child, find some trustworthy man to travel with you ... and then go and collect the money from Gabael" (5,4). Tobias taking the advise of his father went out to look for a man and "found Raphael the Angel standing facing him (though he did not know he was an Angel of God)" (5,5).

2. God and His Angels want always the best for man; they watch and wait for our call. To testify to this, the young boy found the Angel, right outside the door of his house: Tobias asked him, "'Where do you come from, friend?' The Angel replied: 'I am one of your brother Israelites; I have come to these parts to look for work'".

a) "I am one of your brother Israelites." The Angel does not repeat the title "friend", but declares himself a "brother" and "Israelite". Israelite, taken from the name given by the Angel to Jacob (cf. Gn 32,28), is fitting also for St. Raphael. It means: I am on the side of God and under His dominion; or I am coming from the cities of the sons of Israel, that is, from among the faithful, from among those who see God. He can call himself also Brother, as it does not just mean to have the same father and mother; to be part of the same large family or tribe; but to be a member of the same promise. In many cultures, man addresses as "brother" those whom he loves or with whom he shares the same ideals. This bond of love in the one family of God explains the prompt readiness of the Angel to help man.

"I have come to these parts to look for work." In obedience to God and out of love, the Angel looks and waits to help; of course, he waits respectfully till he is called. Often our call for help comes only after many unsuccessful attempts on our own, and we hardly realize that the Angel is already well informed over all our needs and plans and wants to act immediately.

b) Tobias said, "Do you know the road to Media?' The Angel replied, 'Certainly I do. I have been there many times; I know all the ways by heart. I have often been to Media and stayed with Gabael, one of our kinsmen who lives at Rages in Media. It usually takes two full days to go from Ecbatana to Rages…" It is true, no place on earth is hidden to an Angel, if God wants him to know it. The Angels "know details of the physical world ... directly, without possibility of distortion. They know more about all the things we have so laboriously studied through the centuries, and know them better than we ever will ..." (Farrell, My Way of Life. The Summa Simplified, Brooklyn, 1952, 71f; cf S.Th. I,57,1-2). And if Raphael was in charge of that area as an "Angel Guardian of the Nation" (cf. Dan 10,13; S.Th. I,113,1), or if he was an Angel of the family of Tobit, then for sure he had been there many times and knew all geographical circumstances.

Why is the Angel interested in helping man even in his practical daily affairs? The Angel shares both in man’s spiritual and material concerns. As the Angels are always in the presence of God and long for nothing else but GOD, their principal and most ardent desire is to lead man to God. Therefore they help him to avoid sin, to escape temptations, and to be out of the reach of malignant influences, etc. Man’s ultimate goal is direct union with God. In this, the Angel's part is just preparatory, eliminating hindrances and pushing near any possible help. Each individual is personally called by God to this union of the soul with Him, and each one has to enter all by himself into this ‘sanctuary,’ where the union of the soul with God takes place.

But the Angels also look after the material needs of man, because they respect and accept the physical dimension of man, knowing that it is willed by God. This context explains why the Angel is disposed to help Tobias as "brother" in faith and love in his temporal affairs, for also in this he serves man on his way to God.

3. This is not just a beautiful family-story. Are not we priests also sons of our bishop, as the Fathers of Vatican II said: "The priests should see in (the bishop) a true father and ... the bishop, on his side, should treat the priests ... as his sons" (LG 28). We may see an analogy to father Tobit, when a certain Bishop cared for his priestly sons in this way: he called upon each one of his priests to find a "spiritual brother" according to the great tradition of personal spiritual companionship (it is more than having a regular confessor), and wished that they should meet once a month for a few hours to pray, confess and talk together (cf. Pastores dabo vobis, 40.3, 50, 61, 81 and Directory 28, 54, 88). - We priest could read the entire Book of Tobias in this perspective!

We should first of all recall that Jesus did not send His disciples alone, but "two by two" (Lk 10,1). Moreover, He Himself did not want to be alone in the most difficult hours of His life as He entered into His Passion (cf. Mt 26, 37-38. 40-41. 43.45).We cannot expect the bishop to have for each one of us an auxiliary. But we can expect him to ask each priest to guide another priest and to be guided by one, mindful of the words of St. Francis de Sales: "Look for a good man to guide and lead you. This is the most important of all words of advice" (Introduction to the Devout Life, I,4). This gives peace and security, spiritual confidence and light in difficult moments and strong support in questions of fidelity.

According to St. Francis, "such a director ought always to be an Angel", so that "you must listen to him as an Angel who comes down from heaven to lead you." (ibid.) But let us also remember that St. Petrus Canisius, when making his religious profession, received a special angelic companion to help him in his priestly mission. Perhaps we priests may ask our Lord similarly to give us such an angelic helper in addition to our Guardian Angel.

In conclusion, may the spiritual director also have the qualities of St. Raphael: familiarity with God, and proximity to man or time, and comprehension, so that a bond of trust will be established; further, practical and theoretical knowledge, that is wisdom, experience and prudence, and love and sincere care, which will be responded by respect, confidence and docility.

4. Dear Brothers in the Priesthood! We should not underestimate our mission and not overesteem our strength and talents. Neither should we fear dangers everywhere and become insecure. To walk firmly and calmly we should recognize our weakness and accept the help which is offered us.

Let us pray this month for a spiritual friend, a priestly companion, whom God sends like an Angel from heaven "to those who fear Him", and see if there could not be arranged a monthly encounter for prayer, talk and confession.

Also let us restart our friendship and life in common with our Guardian Angel. The field to practice it is as wide as life is long:

We should invite the Angel to guide us according the holy Will of God alone

- by silently reciting the "Sanctus" as we walk into the church for adoration and to the altar for the Holy Sacrifice;

- by inviting our Angels to pray the office with us, to help us in the confessional, to inspire us when we read the Gospel to prepare our sermon, and to help us preach;

- by a thought of our and the others’ Angels when we open a meeting or receive an individual for counseling; when we visit a sick person in the hospital; when we have an important phone call to make or while we hear the telephone ring;

- by calling on our Angels when we enter our car for a drive; or when we are standing in line waiting for our turn; when we are alone in our room at night or when we wake up in the morning.

We do well to call upon our angelic "brothers" always and everywhere in order to give thanks to our Beloved and Merciful God through our entire life and faithful service as His servant and beloved son. May they, who are waiting for our call, overwhelm us with daily surprises.

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC