Friday, October 2, 2009

He Has Put His Angels In Charge Of You, To Guard You In All Your Ways.

First Reading
Exodus 23:20-23

The Lord says this: "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you.”

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 90

R. He has put his angels in charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty
Says to the LORD, "My refuge,
and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;

His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

Then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your dwelling.
For you he will command his angels,
to guard you in all your ways.
R. He has put his angels in charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.

Matthew 18:1-5, 10

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. For whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

"Therefore, see that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven."

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A popular television program here in the United States (and in Britain, I believe) is Super Nanny. On the show, children with outrageously negative behavior patterns are brought under control by the steady, firm hand of the Super Nanny, who deals time-outs and bedtimes without dinner until the children ultimately behave as society prescribes. Much of the program reveals the power struggle between the children and the adults in their lives, where the children often reveal a sophisticated level of skill in manipulation and extortion.

We automatically assume that these are not the humble children to which Jesus is referring in the Gospel. Or are they? Are children that much different now than they were then? Of course we cannot know this for sure. We like to imagine that there were no spoiled brats in Jesus’ time, but can we assume anything like that? I think not.

The underpinnings of the show reveal that children do like structure, and need and desire enforcement. They need guidance, and expect the adults around them to give it to them. When it is lacking, they act out.

So perhaps the humility of which Jesus speaks is more the realization that we as adults also need guidance, and welcome it. Perhaps this guidance, in addition to that from our communities of faith, and our families, comes also in the form of an occasional gentle nudge from our guardian angel. Like the Super Nanny, our guardian angel offers each of us guidance even when our own communities and families let us down.

However, if we assume that our guardian angels exist to protect us from our own bad decisions, we are mistaken. They are not our slaves. They are not that rich uncle who lives to bail us out of our problems. They exist, like all beings, to serve the Lord.

That’s the Good News: that our guardian angels serve the Lord, not us. They are not here to enable our bad behavior. They are here, like all beings, to promote the Kingdom of God, for the coming of the Kingdom. So unlike our slaves or pedagogues, our guardian angels are more like our own personal Super Nanny, which makes sense, because today’s Gospel passage tells us we must be as children. To think that they serve us is to entirely miss the point about how God works in our world to create salvation.

Today, let us pray for our guardian angels, and also resolve to help them serve the Lord in their very important mission.

Brian Kokensparger
Creighton Online Ministries

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