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Sunday, 8 October 2006

The Archangels and our families

(My sermon for today.)

Today, as the Church’s liturgy invites us to reflect on the meaning of Christian marriage, I want to talk about the Holy Archangels and their mission in our homes. This reflection arose particularly when I was thinking about how to offer spiritual help for married people with families but it also applies to single and celibate people in our vocation.

St Michael is spoken of in the book of Revelation as the one who drove the devil out of heaven. Remember that God never created anything evil or bad. As Tolkein said in the Lord of the Rings, “Nothing was evil in the beginning: even Sauron was not so”.The devil was created good, an angel, but because of his pride, he rebelled against God along with the other fallen angels. The devil will seek to destroy the peace of our homes. This is because the family is such a powerful force for good. By disrupting or destroying the family, the devil can achieve a great deal. For a good book that is light-hearted but full of wisdom, I recommend The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis (there is a link to it in the bookshop on the parish website.)

We invoke St Michael in the Church as our protector in the spiritual battle against evil and sin. In our homes, we ask his protection against the evil things that can destroy our happiness, take God’s grace away, cause dissension and hurt, and damage relationships between spouses, or between children and parents. I have recently started saying the prayer to St Michael along with the other "Leonine Prayers" after the weekday Mass. The prayer to St Michael is a good prayer to say whenever we feel that evil has come into our homes.

In the scriptures, we read how St Gabriel expounded the heavenly vision to Daniel, and appeared to Zachary to announce the birth of John the Baptist. But the most important episode is when he appeared to Mary, to announce the conception of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He was the messenger to bring the word from God himself.

We sometimes have other messengers in our homes. The television is a particularly bad one. If someone knocked on your door and said “I want to talk to your children about [some depraved subject] and show them pictures", you would probably throw them out of your house and kick them down the garden path. But we turn the television on and let these things come into our homes that way.

We can ask St Gabriel to bring the message of God into our homes instead, to help us understand the teaching of the Church and welcome God’s message of peace, holiness and purity.

Most of all, we pray for our Blessed Lord himself to be present in our homes. St Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother who would give birth to him in the world. Our Lord will always “stand at the door and knock”, asking to be welcomed into our homes to teach us and to bring us grace. We can invoke St Gabriel’s prayers to help us adapt Mary’s response with a generous heart: “I am the servant of the Lord, let your will be done for me, for my family and my home, just as you have asked.”

We read about St Raphael in the book of Tobit. Here I must point out that if your bible is a non-Catholic one, you will not find the book of Tobit in it. If that is the case, why not buy a new bible? I recommend especially the Ignatius Bible which is beautifully produced and has a good, modern but accurate translation. (You can find it on the parish website and the shop can order one for you.) If you buy a new bible, I would be very happy to come to your house to bless it and to bless your home and pray for your family. Sometimes people say “I know you are very busy, Father.” However, there are priorities. I am sometimes busy because I have to go to meetings that do very little good. Blessing your house is much more important so never be afraid to ask me.

In the book of Tobit, St Raphael is the one who led Tobias on his journey, who delivered Sarah from the devil and restored sight to Tobias. We invoke him especially as the healing angel. We ask him to heal and restore the damage in our relationships caused by greed, selfishness, jealousy, anger, or anything that harms the Christian charity that should prevail.

In any relationship, we can find that our faults deepen and little arguments become bitter. How the devil rejoices to see this! If this is happening in your marriage or in your relationships with your children (it can happen sometimes with parents and teenagers) then ask St Raphael to heal and restore those relationships once again.

The Archangels remind us of the power and the love of our heavenly Father. Remember that God loves your family with an infinite, abiding and everlasting love. He wishes to blot out any harm or evil that threatens the peace of your family and home. On Sunday morning before our principal Mass, we solemnly ask him to send his holy angels to keep, cherish, protect, visit and defend all who dwell in this house. “This house” is the house of God and as the parish Church, it is an extra room for every house in the parish. So when we ask God to send his holy angels to this house, we are asking him at the same time to send the angels to keep, cherish, protect, visit and defend all who dwell in your house.

Holy Archangels, St Michael, St Gabriel and St Raphael, pray for us.
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