Summary: Today we are at the beginning of what could be a terrible time in the history of the Catholic Church and all the communities who call themselves Christian.
Tuesday of 26th Week in Course 2020
Michael, Gabriel and the Archangels
Today is a special day for me and my family. My birth name was Michael, and the day reminds me to thank, in spirit, the woman who bore me and gave me to my adoptive parents, who taught me the faith and gave me a loving education. It’s also a special day for my first grandson, who was so named by my daughter in honor of me and my birth mother. But let’s focus on these awesome verses from the Word of God–literally from Jesus, the firstborn of the Father.
The Book of Daniel is an apocalypse, probably written during a time of persecution of the Jews. Much of the book is taken up with visions like the one we hear today, visions that would encourage believers under threat of torture, confiscation, death. This vision comes in the midst of another vision of terrifying, animal-like demons intent on destroying the people of the Covenant. But this one is a vision of triumph. The Ancient of Days is God the Father, who comes to give a judgement of fire against the enemies. He is surrounded by countless servants, whom tradition identifies as angels of all the choirs. In the verses we don’t hear, upon the opening of the books, the dominion of the demons is removed so their threat is gone, because of the coming of One like a Son of Man. Now this term is not often used in the OT. Jesus uses it a lot in the NT, because He is a divine person with a human nature. He is pictured here as the plenipotentiary of the Father on earth, with an everlasting kingdom.
Where do we see this again in the NT? Luke records the visit of one of the angels, Gabriel, whom we also celebrate today, who announces that with Mary’s virginal agreement, she will become the mother of a King of David’s line who will have an everlasting kingdom. And His name will be Jesus–Jeshua–because He will save us from our sins. So there is a clear connection between the triumph predicted by Daniel and the Incarnation related by Luke.
But here in the Gospel is another strong link between the OT and the New. When the ancestor of the Jews, Jacob, was returning to Palestine and a confrontation with his older brother, Esau, he found himself in a life or death struggle with an angel. He lost because the angel–or was it actually God Himself?–cheated by dislocating a joint. Earlier Jacob–now known as Israel because he fought with God–was at another place and, exhausted, laid down for a nap. In his sleep he saw angels journeying up and down a great ladder leading to heaven. He named the place “Beth-el,” because it was a dwelling place of God, a special place of prayer.
So when His disciple, Nathaniel, whose name means “God’s gift,” meets Jesus and hears prophetic words, he exclaims, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus essentially replies, “you think my seeing you under a fig tree when I was too far away to see is something wonderful? You’ll see greater things for certain. You will see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” Nathaniel followed Jesus, and saw miraculous healings, heard authoritative teaching in ways no rabbi had done, and even witnessed at least three dead people rising from death, one after three days in the tomb. Yes, Nathaniel saw with his own eyes the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel, and all the other prophets, in less than three years. And in the end, he saw the murdered Jesus risen from the dead, with the kind of power foreseen by Daniel’s vision.
Today we are at the beginning of what could be a terrible time in the history of the Catholic Church and all the communities who call themselves Christian. The culture of death has found in many Christian leaders a kind of pusillanimity substituting for God-inspired courage, so that Christian assemblies have been closed down even as liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries remained open. Some have been arrested and thrown in jail. We need to take the example of Daniel and the three young men in Babylon as examples, not to mention the thousands of witnesses in every century since Christ who have given their lives instead of bowing down to government-inspired idolatry and tyranny. Pray then every day for the wisdom to know what God’s will may be, and the virtue to follow His lead. Even if we have to pay the ultimate price on earth of our witness, we are on the right path to God’s kingdom, and there even the angels will serve us.