Gospel text: The Lord said to his disciples: “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you reject me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure”. (Luke 10:16-21)
At the start of the liturgical year, the Church has brought us into the presence of the Cross, that is to say, of the mystery of our salvation through the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. It has brought us into the presence of the most Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the height of all human holiness. It is now going to bring us into the presence of a third aspect of spiritual life: the ministry of the angels. It is this aspect that she now invites us to contemplate on the feast of St. Michael and all the holy angels (November 8th). The angels are pure spirits, but created spirits who are destined to adore and reflect the infinite divine beauty, and secondarily, who are ‘sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation’(Heb.1:14). The Old Testament shows us how frequently they intervened with the patriarchs and prophets; the Hebrews considered angels as the visible manifestation of God, as the bearers of his image and of his power.
The gospels show them toes announcing the birth of Jesus, ministering to him in the desert and in his agony, and as witnesses of his resurrection. They are intimately involved in the life of the apostles and in the beginnings of the Church. The belief that a guardian angel is appointed as a guide and protector to each individual soul has never been defined as an article of faith; but this concept, already outlined in the Bible and developed by the Fathers, is certainly in keeping with the spirit of the Church and can be of great assistance in our spiritual life. The Holy Scriptures name only three angels: Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, whose feast we celebrate today and round whom the Church groups the whole ‘body’ of angels. The Hebrew name Michael means: ‘Who is like unto God’? Michael is mentioned several times in the prophet Daniel, in the epistle of St. Jude, where he is called ‘archangel’, and in Revelation. The veneration of St. Michael began perhaps in Phrygia and was particularly developed in Constantinople.
Christian tradition above all thinks of Michael as throne who is successful in combating Satan. The gospel for this day (Luke10:16-21) describes the joy of the seventy sent out by our Lord who, on their return said to him: ‘Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name’. And Jesus tells them that he himself had seen ‘Satan as lightning fall from heaven’. The disciples had inexperience of the power that the angels exercise continuously, and to an incomparably greater degree. Perhaps, too, this gospel was chosen because of Jesus’ saying to them: “rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven’. These words mean that after their earthly life, Jesus’ disciples will enter into heaven, which is the dwelling place of the angels, and into the joy of heaven, which is the joy of the angels; and that then human life will become nearer to angelic life. Lastly, this portion of the gospel begins with the words: ‘He that hears you hears me...’ It is not only through the preaching of the disciples and through the apostolic tradition, but also through the secret message of the angels in our soul that we shall be able to hear the word of the Savior. If we know how-to listen to the angels, it is to Jesus himself that we listen.
Today we sing an antiphon of biblical origin, which proclaims that God has made his angels winds and his messengers, a flaming fire. Wind and fire: thus the angels are closely connected both with Pentecost and the Holy Spirit.