Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 29 September 2021, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of the three archangels, namely Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. All three are named in the Bible and their special roles are made known to us. They remind us of God’s love and care for us. But let us begin by praying for peace in Southern Africa:
O God of justice and love, bless us, the people of Southern Africa, and help us to
live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury; let me sow pardon;
Where there is discord, let me sow harmony.
Divine Master, grant that I may not so much
Seek to be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
To receive sympathy, as to give it;
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
In pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
In forgetting ourselves that we shall find
Unending peace with others. We ask this through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
The Scripture verses are from the Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 138) of today’s Mass:
I thank you, Lord, with all my heart; you have heard the words of my mouth. In the presence of the angels I praise you. I bow down towards your holy temple.
What is an angel and why do we believe in them? This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition (328). Also, the Catechism says that, As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness (330). Angels always behold the face of God, they were created before the rest of creation as we know it. There are different groupings of angels, such as the seraphim, cherubim and thrones – there are considered to be nine groupings all together. The word “angel” does not refer to their nature. Their nature is “spirit”. Rather the word “angel” refers to what they do, their office – they are servants and messengers of God. There were, as we know, some angels that rebelled against God; they had the free will to do so. Because they rebelled they were cast out of the presence of God. There are some passages of Scripture that refer to this, for example in the Second Letter of St Peter we read, for if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell…(2 Peter 3:4), and in the Letter of St Jude, And the angels that did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the deepest darkness until the judgement of the great day(v.6).
Angels are in the presence of God, praising and worshipping him (cf. Matt 18:10; Rev 5:11). They are also messengers of God – an example we all know well is that of the Archangel Gabriel who announced to Mary God’s desire that she will bear his incarnate Son. They are also our protectors (e.g. Tob 12:12), as is stated in the Catechism, From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession (336). For these reasons we have a special memorial dedicated to the Guardian Angels on the 2nd October.
Among all the angels, there are three that are well known to us by name – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. They are called archangels because of their special and very important part in God’s plan for the salvation of the world. The meaning of “Michael” is, he who is like God. He is mentioned five times in the Bible, in the Book of Daniel (three times) and in the Letter of St Jude and the Book of Revelation. He is the defender of the Church and the chief warrior in the fight against Satan and evil. Many parishes in our Archdiocese pray the Prayer to St Michael at the end of Mass, a prayer that was given to the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and was recommended for use by St Pope John Paul II. “Gabriel” means strength of God. Gabriel also appeared to Daniel in the Old Testament but is, of course, best known to us as the messenger who appeared to the Virgin Mary. “Raphael” means Remedy of God, for he healed the eyes of Tobit in that Book of the Old Testament. He also led Tobit’s son, Tobias, through a number of adventures, eventually brining the family together once more and restoring them to happiness.
Angels and Archangels are given to God’s people to minister to them. But we can also learn from them because they manifest God’s will and what he desires for his people, and so we can also participate in God’s plan for salvation by following their example.. Like Michael, we should be defenders of the faith and of the Church, not afraid to denounce evil and injustice in the world and to denounce all that does harm to people. Like Gabriel, we should show strength in our faith by strengthening others, and announcing the Good News of salvation, bringing joy to the hearts of people. Like Raphael, we should become healers, healers of broken relationships – especially in our families – healers of broken hearts, healers of those who mourn and weep, healers of a broken world. These are all things that God desires for his people and has designated his angels and archangels to do. We, too, can work together to achieve God’s plan and desire. With all our hearts let us thank God for his angels!
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
Merciful Father, in you love and compassion, you send your holy angels to minister to your people. Through their ministration we beseech you, Lord, to protect, strengthen and heal them. Through Christ, our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.