Given at the Mass for the launch of Radio Maria studios at the Rosary Shrine on the Feast of Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, 29th September 2022, St Dominic’s, Haverstock Hill
‘I thank you, Lord, with all my heart: you have heard the words of my mouth: in the presence of the angels I will bless you. I will adore before your holy temple.’ These words from Psalm 137 remind us that in the liturgy we unite with the unceasing cycle of worship of the choirs of heaven, those gathered from the rising of the sun to its setting, from the beginnings of creation until its consummation, and enter into the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the eternal offering. By celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice, we offer thanksgiving and praise to the Father, offer humanity to be transformed, and offer his gifts of creation in bread and wine, which by the power of the Holy Spirit and the words of Christ become the body and blood of Christ. Like the angels, we bow down, worship and adore him singing, ‘Victory and power and empire forever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’ The Lamb is victorious over the powers of sin, suffering and death. He has been given eternal sovereignty, glory and kingship. His empire will last forever. The ‘ancient enemy’ the devil or Satan, is cast down to Hell. The powers of evil can never triumph for he will be with us until the end of time. With great confidence we enter into the mystery, in which the angels lead the choirs of saints, martyrs, confessors, and the multitude, in one eternal hymn of praise.
St Augustine explains that the word ‘Angel’ is the name of an office, not of a nature. St Gregory the Great writes, ‘For these holy spirits of our homeland in heaven are always spirits, but in no way can they always be called angels or messengers since they are angels only when something is announced through them.’ Angel is the name of their office or what they do, a particular activity as servant and messenger of God. Jesus Christ tells us that, ‘because they always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven’, they are the ‘mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word’ [CCC 329].
Today we celebrate the Feast of the archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, who reveal aspects of the love and power of God who desires to save his people. Although present since creation, they are Christ’s angels who belong to him and carry through his will and saving plan.
Michael whose name means ‘Who is like God’ is the defender of the Church. Many people will pray the Prayer to St Michael to defend them against the wickedness and snares of the enemy, the devil. Michael proves to be a popular confirmation name for boys who live in challenging social circumstances and who feel the need of the power of God to protect them. In the book of Daniel, Michael fights for God and accompanies another angel, perhaps Gabriel.
Gabriel means ‘Strength of God’ and is sent to three persons to reveal God’s plan. He visits the prophet Daniel twice, and maybe three times, to explain the meaning of his visions concerning the end of time and the spiritual and earthly battle against God’s kingdom (Dan 8:16, 9:21, 10:10). Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, is also sent to Zechariah to proclaim the birth of John the Baptist, the precursor of Christ (Lk 1:19). He is then sent to Mary to announce God’s call that she is to become the Mother of God (Lk 1:26-29). St Gabriel brings understanding and the good news of God’s salvation.
Raphael means the ‘healing of God’. He is sent to accompany Tobias on his adventurous journey to Ecbatana where he conquers the demon Asmodeus and then marries the abandoned Sarah. They return led by the angel who heals Tobit of his blindness. In the well-known work, Miss Garnet’s Angel, the statue of St Raphael and the ethereal artwork of the Story of Tobias found in the Church of Angelo San Raffaele in Venice, help to open her lonely and hardened heart, to love and the healing of the past. The unexpected breaks into a well-ordered and structured life. The angels may often greet us in dreams or hints that may change the direction of our lives, just as St Joseph entrusted himself to the message of the angel which he could not totally comprehend or fathom.
In our prayer we invoke the intercession of St Michael for those who need the protection of God and are troubled by evil spirits, the prayer of St Gabriel for wisdom and understanding of the mysteries of God’s Will, and the intercession of St Raphael for those in need of healing, whether suffering from physical sickness or mental ill-health. As we entrust ourselves to their guidance, we pray for the work of Radio Maria for which this Mass is offered in thanksgiving. We ask the intercession of St Michael to help the proclamation of the triumph of Christ over the powers of evil and death, the guidance of St Gabriel to instruct people in the way of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the prayer of St Raphael to heal brokenness and division which leads to renewal and growth.
Together may they intercede so that the love of God is manifest in words and deeds, especially to the weakest and the poorest in our midst.
May the ministry of Radio Maria deepen the faith of all who listen and may we entrust this work to the Archangels and Our Blessed Lady, the Guiding Star of Evangelisation.
Bishop John Sherrington