The Come to Watch around Us Here …
to soothe our sorrow, calm our fear
How important do you think you really are? It’s not a smart aleck question I’m asking here, but a very important one and today’s celebration of the Guardian Angels gives us a definite clue. You and I and everyone else must be quite important, at least in the eyes of God, because God has sent holy angels to protect each one of us, yes “for he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go.” [Ps 91, v 11]
Parents, especially very wealthy parents, who love their children will set up trustees for the children’s welfare should anything happen to them and leave their children orphans. Good parents will make sure that these trustees are very good and reliable surrogates who will bring their children up the way they wanted them to be brought up and who will protect their inheritance until the they have become mature adults. If that’s the way things often happen in this world, what must be think when God entrusts each of us to a guardian angel, to a heavenly trustee who will accompany us in this life, protect us, teach us, if we are but docile, and guide us home to our heavenly inheritance. We must be very valuable indeed in the eyes of God who not only sent his only begotten son to redeem us, but then gave us these heavenly guides and protectors to safeguard us and our inheritance until we reach maturity in the kingdom of God.
The doctrine of the guardian angels is clearly taught by Jesus himself in Matthew’s Gospel, “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.” We also know that the angels of God ascended and descended upon the Son of Man while he was on earth, and this great ministry of angels which surrounded the humanity of the son of God is continued in the ministry of angels for those whom God has created and redeemed. God is the richest of all parents and our inheritance is the richest of all inheritances, life in Christ, life in the Trinity for all ages. That is the real measure of our worth, worth far more than any human judgment can assess.
There is much to be learned from simply reflecting upon this ministry of the angels. To begin with this, these angels remain with us throughout our life, not simply until we reach human adulthood. In relation to the great inheritance, we are all of us like children until they reach maturity in heaven. Thus the angels remain with us throughout our lifetime unlike human trustees. Did not Jesus say that unless we become like children we will not enter the kingdom of God. Like little children, we always remain dependent on others in order to grow up as children of God. God gives us human guardians and ministers, our good parents and friends and relatives, our good pastors and teachers, and most wonderfully our guardian angels, heavenly ministers as earthly companions and guides.
Only foolish children think they can grow up as wise and mature human beings without the help of others. Only foolish children ignore or despise their trustees. Even the son of God was ministered to by angels. That should teach us something about our need for assistance not only from human guardians but from angelic as well. These divine ministers are wise and powerful, and they are dedicated by God to our salvation. They are companions, but we must never treat them as if they were our slaves. Some pious Christians had to be corrected by the Holy See when they began to name their angels, as if their angels were more like their children than their guardians. We name things that are in a certain sense inferior to us but not those who are superior to us by their very nature and holiness as well. We should be humble before our angels and that will make us docile to their ministry.
Finally, we should recognize that the primary ministry of these angels is to God, that is, to the worship of their creator and ours. Even as they serve God in ministering over us, Jesus says that they behold the face of God, that is, they have the beatific vision and worship unceasingly. That may be there most important lesson for us, that prayer must be the highest priority in our life even while we are carrying out our earthly tasks.
Indeed, the statement of Jesus about the angels beholding the face of God even while they minister to us seems to me to be a confirmation of the truth that Jesus already had the beatific vision while he carried out his ministry on earth. Some theologians thought this would be somehow in contradiction to his full human status, and would somehow make it impossible for him to experience human suffering which is the basis of our redemption. But as a guardian angels can behold the face of God and still carry on an earthly ministry, why would it be an obstacle for the redemption which is a human ministry.
At any rate, the fact that these guardian angels can simultaneously behold the face of God and worship the Holy Trinity and still minister to us while we are on this earth, teaches us how our lives should be led and how we can enrich every aspect of our daily life that is good in itself. Some spiritual writers speak of contemplatives in the world, like Mary herself, who while she did not directly beholding the face of God as she carried out her earthly responsibilities, nonetheless, we can truly imagine what her prayer life was like as she lived and worked in this world. What we can’t imagine is that Mary would have been deprived of her prayer life, her direct contact with God, during the time that she ministered to her beloved son and to her beloved husband.
Our goal has to be to make prayer a constant reality in our daily life, not just in the periods we set aside purely for prayer, but during all the good things that we do to serve God in this world by serving others. That prayer is what enriches everything, beginning with ourselves. May the holy angels help us to understand how to accomplish this as they do on a higher level.