Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Matthew 18:1-5, 10
What do we think of Angels in 2014? Where do our notions of what Angels are and what they do come from?
While I was pondering of angels in preparing to write this reflection, I remembered how surprised a friend of mine was when taking a tour of Shakespeare's Stratford-on-Avon, and the tour guide began to recite some of the many sayings which first saw the light in one of his plays.
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
For ever and a day.
Now is the winter of our discontent.
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Off with his head!
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.
But love is blind, and lovers cannot see.
The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
Et tu, Brute!
Beware the ides of March.
Out, damned spot! out, I say!
The game is up.
Even without our thinking consciously of it, the realm of literature sends us images and ideas that become part of our personal speech, if not beliefs.
So, quite naturally, I began to think of the many ways that Angels have been appropriated by motion picture producers to entitle films. Here are some, in no order:
Charlie's Angels; Angel on my Shoulder; The Blue Angel; The Trouble with Angels; Almost an Angel; Angels in the Outfield; City of Angels; Date with an Angel; and Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows. If we toss in some TV titles, we get another Charlie's Angels, and Touched by an Angel, and simply Angel.
Where do our ideas of Angels come from? Are they only the fruit of media publicists and producers?
I am sure you can remember when you were young and your parents, perhaps your grandparents or a baby-sitter would lead you through night prayers, and you prayed to your Guardian Angel: Angel of God, my Guardian dear, to whom God's love commits me here....
Today's gospel has one of the texts that speaks directly of Angels, and how each member of the Body of Christ has one such advocate, who stands in the presence of our heavenly Father.
Although the passage read today seems to be speaking of little children and their Angels, in reality, only the first five verses speak of little children--paidion, and their "humility", i.e., their total dependence on their parents or family to survive in life-which becomes our total dependence on God for what sustains us for eternal life. Then, taking into account the four verses omitted from today's Gospel passage, Matthew has already changed the subject, and we are in a more sober and challenging lesson: how to avoid the eternal loss of God. Matthew uses the expression "little ones"--micron, in verse 6 and in verse 10, not speaking of children anymore, but speaking of the disciples of Jesus.
Consequently, and it should be reassuring for us, we have not lost our Angel, Guardian or otherwise. Jesus speaks directly to the question, all of us are conversant with God in many ways, and one of those ways is by acknowledging the presence of our Angels before God. However, as messengers ("angel" equals "messenger"), they also challenge us to maintain our dialogue with God, whether in prayer, meditation, or scripture study.
There was a time when we invoked our Guardian Angels as we prepared to cross a busy, multi-lane street; or when we got into the family car to take a trip out of town. Today we would do well to remember our Angels who gaze on the face of God, and tell us to do likewise.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.