Note: This homily was delivered on the Feast of the Archangels during the Fiesta Mass of the Ateneo Grade School on 29 September 2016. You may opt to watch the video first.
Today we celebrate not only the feast of the guardian angels, but also the feast of three archangels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.
These three are the only angels named in the Bible. Can you tell which is which?
Michael is the warrior archangel, best known for fighting the evil forces, as we heard today.
Gabriel is the angel remembered for announcing the Good News to Mary at the annunciation.
And finally, of course, Raphael whom we probably know the least. He’s the angel who took care of a man named Tobit and cured his blindness.
Angels are heavenly creatures who serve God. They stand in His presence and are sent out on different missions: To be messengers of God, but also to watch over us and to guide us.
Angels don’t have bodies like us; they are pure spirit. But they share one thing in common with us: They have been created free. Like us, they make their own decisions. If they serve God, it’s because they choose to do so.
Of course, we believe that not all angels have chosen to serve God. Some are fallen angels. Because they refused to serve God, they changed into demons.
Now before we talk about angels, I’d like to talk about these fallen angels.
Demons are very busy creatures. They’re always working; some can’t wait to go to work.
The reason? They’re in the business of temptations. Their main job is to tempt us to choose to do the wrong things—like becoming proud, selfish, or plain greedy. They tend to be very persistent. They’ll keep bugging us to do the wrong thing and will do anything to keep us away from becoming good people. And if we’re not careful, we’ll end up falling into their temptations.
Thank God we have someone like St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was a master at recognizing angels and demons. He calls this “discernment.” Discernment means being careful about our decisions so that we resist the temptations of demons and listen to the guidance offered by angels.
Discerning every single decision we make is very important. Every choice we make—whether big or small–defines the kind of person that we become. All our daily decisions, even what seems minor, add up and they make us good persons or not-so-good persons. In other words, if you want to be a good person, it’s really up to you. It’s your choice.
Now, the demon has mastered the best tactics in tempting us. According to St. Ignatius, the demon usually acts like a cunning general who wants to conquer us and invade our lives. It takes one long look at you, studies the things you do, and then asks: “What’s your weakness?” And then it tells itself: That’s exactly how I’ll get you!”
So it’s good to know our weaknesses because if you notice, the sins that we keep committing are usually related to these weaknesses. The evil spirit finds our weakness and will make sure to send us a temptation especially designed for us.
For example, let’s say that there is nothing you enjoy more than a pack of M&Ms—not just any M&Ms, but the one that comes in this yellow pack, the peanut M&Ms. Since the evil spirit knows this, it will tempt me to eat it all and not to share it with my little sister. Left to my own devices and weaknesses, I’m probably going to end up more selfish because the demon will suggest that I don’t share it with anyone!
Here’s another example: I’ve decided to be a good person today—to do some magis and help a classmate with his Math homework. The problem is, I’m not a very patient person, and my classmate is taking an awfully long time to get it. Aside from my lack of patience, let’s say another weakness I have is playing computer games. I love to spend every free time I have playing these games. And I can’t wait to play some games, but I can’t because I’m still trying to help my classmate! The evil spirit knows my two weaknesses—that I’m not a very patient guy and I’m almost addicted to computer games—so it’s going to start tempting me by making me think: “You’re just wasting your time! You’ve already given your friend one hour—that’s a lot of time sacrificed instead of enjoying yourself and playing your favorite game! Time to stop helping him!”
So what will happen if I don’t discern and I don’t recognize this temptation of the evil spirit? I’ll fall for the trap and stop helping my friend! Again the demon used and exploited my weakness to tempt me and to prevent me from doing something good.
The good news is, we are never left on our own. The angels whose feast we celebrate today are exactly the ones who can help us. God has sent them to us to protect us and defend us against evil. All we need to do is to ask for their help.
Michael is the warrior-archangel who can protect us in moments of weakness. He is really the angel of magees, which as we know means “to do more, to be better—but not for ourselves, but for the greater glory of God.” He encourages us to do more and to strive to be better, to work hard to resist temptations and fight evil spirits, so that we turn into better persons.
Gabriel is the messenger-archangel who is usually sent to announce God’s plans. This is the same angel that showed up in Nazareth to tell Mary that she was going to be the mother of Jesus. This angel is the angel of discernment because he’s the one who tells us God’s message and invites us to listen to it and do God’s will.
Finally, we have Raphael, our least known archangel. But he’s very important: Raphael is the healer and is the angel of cura personalis (which means personal care). He is the angel who encourages us to be kind to others and to help others–even when it doesn’t feel good, to resist the temptation of putting ourselves first above others.
So today, let us thank the Lord for the gift of our angels and their help. Let us pray that God will always help us listen to them and follow their guidance. If for every decision we make, we make sure to listen to our better angels, we too can be an angel to others.
Happy Feast Day to all of you here at the Ateneo Grade School!