Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Guardian Angels -- 2 October 2014

Readings: Job 19:21-27; Psalm 27; Matthew 18:1-5,10

It is clear from the readings and prayers these days, for the feast of the archangels and for today's feast, that the Christian tradition is more confident about what angels do than about what kind of being they are, clearer about the services they provide than about their nature. They are creatures who teach, guide and protect other creatures.

In doing these things they are agents of the providence of God, bringing that providence to bear in every nook and corner of the creation. We might, reasonably, think that God will be more concerned about what is happening to people in Syria than about someone's ingrown toenail. It seems obscene even to be making such a comparison.

Yet Jesus teaches us that every hair on our head is counted. Are we to take it seriously? There is a temptation to push God's providence back, away from very particular and concrete things, to a more general, universal level. But nothing that happens to his children falls outside God's care. Anything that forms part of the progress or distress of the world falls within the scope of God's interest. We are tempted to despise the 'little ones', the things that seem trivial and unimportant in the grander scheme of things. But these feasts of the angels remind us that God's providence reaches everywhere. Nothing that affects his children or is of interest to them is too small to be regarded as beneath God's dignity. The feast of the guardian angels reminds us of this fact.

In the tradition also the term 'angel' is sometimes used to refer to a human being who carries out one of the angelic services of teaching, guiding or protecting on behalf of another human being. I presume we have all been told, from time to time, 'you're an angel, thank you for that'. Here is something even more wonderful about God's providence: as well as making creatures to be provided for, God has made some creatures capable of providing for others, teaching, guiding and protecting them, and so sharing in His care for creation. Think of parents in the first place, archangels.

So wherever we experience these kindnesses - being taught, being guided, being protected - we are being cared for by angels and, in them, by God who is steadfast love and faithfulness.

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