In today’s liturgy we have a choice of hearing one of the great apocalyptic texts of Scripture about the power of God’s servants (the messengers of God) either from the Jewish Book of Daniel or the New Testament Book of Revelation. This feast of the archangels invites us to celebrate another aspect of Christ’s victory. In the Daniel text we see the angels in adoration of God and of Jesus who enters to claim his place of glory after he defeats evil. The scene is the “throne room” that one might imagine the mightiest emperor of the Middle East presiding over. – and yet the Son of Man’s obedience is even greater. This text focuses our attention on the adoring and obedient relationship of the angels to God and to his Son – one like the son of man – and the glory of His victory. Christians believe that this honor is extended to Jesus who submitted to the power of evil and “opened not his mouth.” The one who gave his back to be beaten and who finally poured out his life in an apparently hopeless and helpless act of humiliated weakness! The contrast cannot be more dramatic if we consider the implications from God’s perspective.
The alternative text from the book of Revelations describes a terrible battle in which evil is thrown down in defeat. Michael, the angelic servant of God uses Jesus Christ’s power to drive evil from God’s Reign. Since every act of Christian faith invites us to consider the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection from one perspective or another, this text provides us with a excellent opportunity to reflect on our own Baptismal promises – those commitments taken by our parents and sponsors if we were brought to the font as infants, or that we ourselves pronounced if we entered the faith as a more mature child or adult. Each year on Easter Sunday we renew these fundamental vows of fidelity to Christ. So this reading from today’s feast invites us into the mystery of the vulnerability of Jesus’ obedient death as the expression of the mightiest act of power ever engaged. Our Baptism places us precisely in that place of humble obedience so that, like Michael and the angels, we, as God’s intelligent creatures can participate in the victory over evil both in our own lives and in the greater world where we live and serve bringing the fullness of God’s reign to earth, extending the New Creation.
In Baptism we agreed or promised to “reject sin so as to live in the freedom of God’s children, and to reject evil’s glamour,” and , finally, “to reject Satan, the father of sin and the ruler of darkness,” or we may have merely promised to “reject Satan, his works and empty promises.” Whichever version of the promises we assented to; we said essentially the same thing. We promised to be on the side of the angels, laboring on behalf of God’s Reign in the context of the old creation in order for the New Creation to be made available to everyone. Today’s liturgy challenges us to see the fulfillment of those promises in terms of a cosmic conflict taking place in each human life and in the whole of creation. This battle demands humility, obedience, undaunted courage, and perhaps, above all hope in the fact that the Victory is assured – already won it cannot be denied to those who genuinely love.
Can we fail to sing “In the sight of the angels I will sing your Praise, O God” having such good news to share?
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