Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
September 29th, 2011

George Butterfield

School of Law
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Feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael
[647] Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or Revelations 12:7-12ab
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
John 1:47-51


In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

Today we celebrate the feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels. The second reading from today’s Office of Readings includes a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope. In it he says the following:

You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

As to the names of the three archangels, he goes on to say:

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they come among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God?”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Saint Gregory’s insights help us to understand today’s readings. Daniel’s vision is of the Ancient One on his throne. He is surrounded by thousands upon thousands who serve him. This is the language scripture uses to describe the work of the angels, the spirits. The angels ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The writer to the Hebrews refers to the angels as ministering spirits who serve the faithful here on earth. This echoes Daniel who saw “one like a son of man” presented to the Ancient One and given everlasting dominion. Jesus, the one who before Pilate could have called for an army of ten thousand angels, has a kingdom that shall not be destroyed.

The alternative first reading is about the war that broke out in heaven, the ultimate concluding battle between good and evil. Michael and his angels battle and defeat the dragon. When I read this passage it reminds me of the Raid bug spray commercial. The bugs are having a great time and then one of them realizes their impending doom and yells “Raid!” If you’re fighting on the wrong side, you don’t want to hear, “Oh no, Miiiiiiiiiichael!” The one “who is like God” never loses a fight.

In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

The gospel lesson is the story of Jesus meeting Nathanael. Jesus knows the heart of this man, reveals details about him that no human could know, and Nathanael is instantly convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel. Jesus assures him that he will see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man. This is a reference to the Old Testament story of Jacob who dreamed about a ladder that on it had the angels of God going up and down. Jacob awoke and named the place “Bethel,” the house of God. To him it was the very gate of heaven, the entrance and exit point for the angels of God going from heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Jesus to Nathanael: I am that gate. I am the one who is the very opening into the presence of God. Or, as John’s Gospel records in another passage, Jesus is “the way” to the Father.

In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

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