02Oct 02 October, 2017. The Guardian Angels (Memorial)

1st Reading: Exodus 23:20-23

I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way

The Lord spoke to Moses and the people during their journey across the desert desert: “I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him.

But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. My angel will go in front of you.”

Gospel: Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Their angels in heaven look upon the face of my heavenly Father

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”


Trust your Guardian Angel

A guardian angel is a caring spirit assigned by God to watch over, protect and guide us. While belief in angels guarding God’s people can be traced through antiquity, the concept of a personal angel to guard each faithful believer was much developed during the middle ages. It is a colourful expression of a Christian’s trust in a personal providence as taught by Jesus: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt 10:30) “If God so clothes the grass that blooms today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more you, O ye of little faith?” (Lk 6:28).

In the Gospel, angels appear as envoys between God and human beings — to Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, for example — and Jesus suggests that each child is entrusted to a special angel: “See that you despise not one of these little ones; for their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 18:10). The idea of guardian angels also appears in Hb 1:14, “Are they not ministering spirits, serving those who shall be heirs of salvation?” We read how an angel escorted Saint Peter out of prison (Acts 12:12ff). Another instance is the angel who comforted Christ in the garden, during his agony on the eve of his Passion.

According to Saint Jerome, “how great the dignity of the soul, since each has from his birth an angel to guard it.” Scholastic theologians speculated much about the angel guardians, which led to some mockery from those who dismiss the whole notion of angels. This feast was not in the breviary until the 17th century when Clement X extended the Feast of Guardian Angels to the whole Latin Church, to be celebrated on October 2nd.

Entertaining angels unaware

A verse in the letter to the Hebrews says, “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.” It suggests that there can be more to those who cross our path in life than we realize. Jesus makes the same point in today’s gospel when he says, “anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.” In the world of Jesus, the child had little or no social status. Yet Jesus assures his disciples that in welco ng little children, they are welcoming him. He comes to us in and through people who seem of least importance. This is a sobering lesson for the disciples who have just been arguing over which of them was the greatest.

Not only do we welcome Jesus when we welcome a child, but unless we become like children we will never enter the kingdom of God. Instead of the grasping attitude the disciples had just shown in arguing over which of them was the greatest, if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven we must possess something of the open, receptive attitude of children who depend totally on others. Christ says that only those who recognise their littleness will enter the kingdom of heaven.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    Welcome the child

    Luke 9:46-50

    Grown men arguing who is the greatest! At first it sounds silly, but on reflection it is one of the most important discussions we can have. It is about the real value of my life. How well have I lived it? Did it spoil? What went wrong? How can I make a success of my life? Do I count? Am I worth it? Where am I going? Who cares about me?

    These are often agonising questions. People in positions of power often do not experience the agony because power already convinces them that they have made it in life. They have achieved great goals and enjoy great prestige and recognition as truly important people in the drama of the world. Now they are so busy being busy and solving the troubles of others around them that this question of ‘who am I?’ and ‘does my life mean anything?’ seem totally irrelevant.

    But if you are just one of the crowd, one of the teeming millions, trying to make your way in this crowded world, these questions occur time and time again. Am I making a success of my life? Do others recognise me as successful? Does anyone take any notice of me? Do I count? In the grand scheme of things what about me?

    The issues at stake for all of us here are power, position and prestige. Does my life mean anything? Do I have my own place in the world? Do other people appreciate me in any way? Power, position, prestige – these are the issues. They are not to be despised. They are very important.

    In the journey of our life it is important to discover our own personal power of being myself. Not simply someone who pleases others or dances to whatever tune, but to be in charge of myself and therefore a person capable of personal responsibility. To come to that moment in life, where we fully take charge of our own feelings and responses is a wonderful day.

    Our position in the world, our place is also vitally important. This concerns our relationships with others and their recognition of where we stand. ‘You’ are important and I see you. I give you your place in the scheme of things.

    Prestige is honour and respect, something that belongs to us simply as human beings. Not the fickle features of fame but the genuine homage that one person owes to another. These are the elements of a true life happily lived.

    In a child we find all these elements at the very start of life. This new person is a new power in the world. This child occupies its own place in the world and in its loveliness and beauty is to be found its prestige and esteem.

    So begin with the child. Remember the child that you once were, the child that you still are, somewhere, there inside yourself. Love and honour that child. Give that child its due. It is you.

    Brian Fahy
    2 October 2017

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