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THE ROLE OF THE ANGELS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels, September 29, 2017
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Psalm 137, John 1:47-51


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.

 

"As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened" (Daniel 7:9-10).


Today we celebrate the angels, ministering spirits who serve God day and night. They form his heavenly court. God created them as bodiless spirits, intelligent beings, superior to human beings, with whom God lives and shares his glory. As God created innumerable creatures on earth, each reflecting and manifesting God's greatness and glory in different ways, so too in heaven he created angels, intelligent and loving beings, without bodies, to manifest his greatness, majesty, and glory in different ways and to be with God.


The angels are contemplative spirits. Jesus tells us, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10). Their highest function is to contemplate God's glory and sing his praise. In this function they are an inspiration and model to us to imitate them when we sit in contemplation. When sitting in contemplation, we realize that we are not wasting our time, but rather joining the angels in their contemplation of God, which is their highest function.


The angels also indicate our final goal in life, which is to enter into heaven after our death and come into the presence of God and all his holy angels. We will not be alone there. Even though we will leave our bodies behind and will enter heaven after death as bodiless spirits, we will enter into the presence of the angels, pure spiritual beings, superior to us, and we will joyfully see God and be with him and his angels forever in perfect happiness. The revelation of Scripture that God lives surrounded by myriads of angels - "A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him" (Daniel 7:10) - gives us an inspiring visual sense of what heaven will be like and makes us long to be there in such splendor. There we will see "innumerable angels in festal gathering" (Hebrews 12:22).


Some of the most beautiful parts of the Bible are filled with angels. Perhaps the most loved of all is the angelic host that appeared in the night sky to certain poor shepherds who were living in the field, "keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8).


"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord ... And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:8-11, 13-14 KJV).


The announcing angel was surrounded with the glory of the Lord, which shone about him in the darkness of the night as the shepherds looked on in wonder and fear. It was the task of an angel to announce to human beings the birth of the Savior of the world. He was sent by God to make this announcement to ordinary simple people, shepherds living out in the field at night with their flock. Then suddenly the night sky lit up as "a multitude of the heavenly host" appeared to them, praising God in heaven and wishing peace and goodwill toward men on earth. This is at one and the same time both a view of heaven and a sign of the great blessing that Christ's birth would bring to the earth: "Peace, good will toward men."


Another magnificent view of heaven filled with angels is given to us by the author of the letter to the Hebrews:


"For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of the trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers entreat that no further messages be spoken to them ... But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel" (Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24).


Here the author of Hebrews contrasts the glorious but fearful theophany on Mount Sinai with the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly Mount Sinai, the city of the living God, filled with "innumerable angels in festal gathering." There we hope to be with them. We hope to be among the spirits of the just made perfect. Jesus will be there too, our great mediator, with his "sprinkled blood" that has atoned for our sins by making reparation for them, thereby redeeming us. And we will be with the Lord and with the angels in festal array.


Finally angels will be charged with announcing the Parousia, the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ on the clouds of heaven in great light to gather all the elect to himself from the ends of the earth, from one end of the heavens to the other. And when Christ comes, he will come with all his holy angels:


"For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works" (Matthew 16:27 NKJV).


"Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:30-31).


When the Lord Jesus Christ finally returns on the clouds of heaven, all the tribes of the earth will mourn rather than rejoice, for they had not believed in him, had not received and accepted him as their Lord whom they would follow and as their Savior who would redeem them with his blood poured out on the cross to atone for their sins by making reparation for them. But the elect will rejoice when they hear the angels blowing the final trumpet call, for they believed in him. They will be gathered out, some from here, some from there, "from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).


Then "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).


This is the biblical description of the Lord's return in glory to take his elect with him, where the dead will rise in glorified bodies and the living will be changed into glorious bodies and meet the Lord in the air and be forever with him. It is angels who announce all this glory. An archangel will call and the trumpet of God will sound.


Then we shall all be changed, both the living and the dead:
"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).


Then we shall be with God and his angels forever.

 

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