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By Bishop Larry Silva
September 29, 2019
St. Michael Church, Waialua (Parish Feast Day)
We live in an age of what some call “scientism.” It is the belief that all things that we can know must be known scientifically. So when a couple falls in love, we might speak of the brain waves that cause their attraction, the chemicals that are activated in their brains that causes them such excitement to be in one another’s presence, or the change in blood pressure or heart rate they experience. Seldom do we think of the little cherub Cupid shooting his arrows of love at their hearts. When someone is suddenly cured of a disease, we analyze whether the diagnosis was correct in the first place and what internal or external factors might have taken place to influence the healing. We tend not to think so much of just plain miracles.
I recently read an article about how astronomers are searching the galaxies ever more effectively to see if there might be life on other planets. They are looking for signs of water, of light, and of energy that might indicate extra-terrestrial beings. We Catholics, however, have always believed in extra-terrestrial beings – some of whom actually come to earth – in the spirits that God created which we call angels. And, of course, today we celebrate not only the Archangel Michael, but the Archangels Gabriel and Raphael as well.
We do not normally see angels, because they are not physical beings, but we do believe they exist and have an influence in the world – for good or for ill, because we know that some of these wonderful creatures chose to worship themselves rather than God, so they live in their own self-created hell, working always to draw other to them. But the good angels also work very hard to bring God’s love to others.
I remember a Mexican couple telling me about a road trip in Mexico they made when their children were small. All of a sudden, their car broke down in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. They tried everything they could to start it up again, but it would not start. Two hours later someone came from the opposite direction and stopped to see if he could help. He told the couple that he had just escaped a monsoon, and it had washed out a bridge just after he had crossed it. The couple realized that if their car had been working properly they would have been on that bridge just about the time it had washed away. When the other traveler asked them to turn over the engine so he could try to identify the problem the car started right up and ran smoothly from then on. Was this a coincidence? Or was it an angel God had sent to protect them? I can tell you they are convinced it was an angel.
I remember a priest friend who was struggling with his priesthood and was very frustrated with the parish he was in. One Friday night as he was driving, he slammed his hand on the wheel and said to God, “Lord, I can’t take this any more. If I do not receive some sign by tomorrow that you still want me to be a priest, I will be gone after the Masses on Sunday afternoon!” The next day he was hearing confessions, and a woman he had never seen before came to confess. After her confession, she got up to leave, but turned around and said, “Father, if you should ever think of leaving the priesthood, please don’t, because we really need you!” He knew an angel had spoken to him by sending him that woman and putting those very unusual words in her mouth.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been hearing confessions, and a startle a penitent with a great insight that is very helpful. And I think to myself, “Where did that come from? Did I say that?” I am convinced it was an angel of the Lord who came as his messenger and put in my mouth the exact words that penitent needed to hear.
This feast of the Archangels teaches us that there are beings who are not human but who love us deeply, because they first love God. God loves us so much that he sends them as messengers to guide us, to enlighten us, to save us from sin and stupidity, and to keep us on the right path. St. Michael is the great angel or “arch” angel who defends us when we are battling Satan, and that battle can be constant and rough. But if we confide in him, are aware of his presence, and call upon him, he will trust Satan back down to hell, as we heard in our reading from the Book of Revelation. The Archangel Gabriel was the messenger to God’s nearness and his desire to be a merciful judge. He it was who announced to the Virgin Mary that through her the Savior of the world would be born. He will announce the Lord’s coming on the last day, so that we may be prepared to say our Yes to him, just as Mary did. St. Raphael was the guide on the journey and the great healer, and we can call upon him when we are on a journey or a quest, or when we are in need of healing.
I can never show you an angel, scientifically prove that angels exist, or tell you much about the substance of their being. But, like love, and poetry, and beauty, which exist but cannot be scientifically defined, we are given the companionship of angels to lead us to the greatest Beauty, Truth, and Love, the God whom they – and we -- were created to serve and adore.