THE ANGELS (Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ)

From the first book Genesis to the last book Revelation the Angels appear numerous times in the Bible. But only three angels are mentioned by their names: Gabriel, Michael and Raphael. They are also referred to as archangels.

Belief in angels can be traced for centuries before Jesus not only among the Jewish people but also among other races and cultures.

In this essay we speak about the angels in the New Testament especially about the angels in the four Gospels.

There are people who ignore or question the existence of angels. But the New Testament simply takes for granted their existence and speaks about them as a matter of fact way.

We see that Jesus life is closely related to angels and he has often spoken about them. The angels are closely related especially to the crises of Jesus life.

As Luke narrates, angel Gabriel is sent to the old priest Zechariah to announce the birth of Jesus cousin, John the Baptist.

But Zacharich had doubt about the angels announcement. So Zachariah said to the angel, How shall I know if this is so? I am an old man, and my wife is old also.

I am Gabrial the angel answered. I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news (Lk 1, 18-19).

Jesus own birth is also announced by angel Gabriel. Again Luke narrates the event. In the sixth month of Elizabeths pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. He had a message for a girl promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. The girls name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!

Mary was deeply troubled by the angels message, and she wondered what his words meant. The angel said to her, Dont be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!

Mary said to the angel, I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?

The angel answered, The Holy Spirit will come on you, and Gods power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. Remember you relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. For there is nothing that God cannot do.

I am the Lords servant, said Mary; may it happen to me as you have said. And he angel left her (Lk 1, 26-38).

Then, before living together, Joseph found that his betrothed spouse Mary was with child from the Holy Spirit. So, as Mathew narrates Joseph being a righteous man decided to dismiss her quietly. But an angel comes to his help.

While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived. She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus  because he will save his people from their sins.

Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord has said through the prophet come true, A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel (which means, God is with us).

So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to do. But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. An Joseph named him Jesus (Mt 1, 20-25).

Going back to Lukes narration of Jesus birth, an angel appeared to the shepherds keeping watch over their flock by night in the field. The angel said to them, Dont be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. This very day in Davids town your Saviour was born-Christ the Lord! And this is what will prove it to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manager. (Lk 2, 10-12).

Then, as Luke continues his narration, Suddenly a great army of heavens angels appeared with the angel, singing praises to God: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased! (Lk 2, 13-14).

The visitors from the East after worshipping the child Jesus left the manager without meeting king Herod. The king was furious and he gave orders to kill all boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood. Then, as Mathew narrates, An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave.

Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died (Mt. 2, 13-15).

The angel appears in Jesus life again at his temptation in the wilderness: When the devil failed in his attempt to tempt Jesus at the end of Jesus fasting forty days and nights, Mathew says, Then the Devil left Jesus; and angels came and helped him (Mt 4, 11).

During his three years public ministry Jesus often spoke about the angels.

When at the request of his disciples Jesus explained to them the parable of the weeds, And the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels (Mt 13, 39).

According to Luke the angels appear as the heavenly court attending to the Lord. Hence Jesus says, I assure you that whoever declares publicly that he belongs to me, the Son of Man will do the same for him before the angels of God. But whoever rejects me publicly, the Son of Man will also reject him before the angels of God (Lk 12, 8-9).

Again after the parables of lost sheep and the lost coin Jesus says, In the same way, I tell you, the angels of God rejoice over one sinner who repents (Lk 15, 10).

Guardian angel is common usage in English and other languages. Jesus refers to angels as guardians of children. See that you dont despise any of these little ones, their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven (Mt 18, 10-11).

Jesus has told his disciples at the critical time of his arrest that, Dont you know that I could call on my Father for help, and at once he would send me more than twelve armies of angels? (Mt 26, 53).

In Luke the angels carried away the poor man Lazarus to heaven. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the feast in heaven. The rich man died and was buried (Lk 16, 22).

Then, the angels accompany the Son of Man at his coming (see Mt 16, 27; Mk 18, 38; Lk 9,26) and they gather the elect (Mt 24, 31; Mk 13, 37).

After the resurrection of Jesus we see two angels at the tomb of Jesus. John portrays the scene, Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying, she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and the other at the feet (Jn 20, 11-12).

In the Acts and in the other books of the New Testament we see the angels encouraging and supporting the Apostles. An angel led the apostles out of their prison and set them free. But that night an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates, led the apostles out, and said to them, Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new life. The apostles obeyed, and at down they entered the Temple and started teaching (Acts 5, 19-21).

The letter to Hebrews and the book of Revelation have several references to angels. In the very last reference to angel, John testify in his vision, I, Jesus, have sent my angel to announce these things to you in the churches. I am descended from the family of David; I am the bright morning star(Rev. 22, 16).

Belief in the existence of angel varies among the Christians. While some especially a few denominational Protestants, ignore the angels; the Catholics and Orthodox Christian have strong belief in the existence of the angels.

As Ronald Brownrigg says in Whos Who the New Testament, From St. Augustine of Hippo to St. Francis of Assisi and to Joan of Arc, the more simple and humble-minded Christians have felt that they enjoyed the guidance, comfort and protection of angels.

 

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