2 October, Friday — Angels on our Shoulders

Oct 2 – Memorial for The Guardian Angels

The term ‘guardian angels’ refers to the belief that each soul has an angel who is available to shepherd the soul through life, and help bring them to God.

Belief in the reality of angels, their mission as messengers of God, and Man’s interaction with them, goes back to the earliest times. Cherubim kept Adam and Eve from slipping back into Eden; angels saved Lot and helped destroy the cities of the plains; in Exodus, Moses follows an angel, and at one point an angel is appointed leader of Israel. Michael is mentioned at several points, Raphael figures large in the story of Tobit, and Gabriel delivered the Annunciation of the coming of Christ.

The concept of each soul having a personal guardian angel is also an ancient one, and long accepted by the Church:

“See that you despise not one of these little ones [children]: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus, Matthew 18:10

“How great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” – St. Jerome in his commentary on Matthew.

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” – Hebrews 1:14

The feast, celebrating the angels who helped bring us to God began in many local calendars centuries ago, and was widely known by the 16th century. Pope Paul V placed a feast venerating the angels on the general calendar on 27 September 1608. Ferdinand of Austria requested that it be extended to all areas in the Holy Roman Empire.

Initially placed after the feast of Michael the Archangel, it was seen as a kind of supplement to that date. Pope Clement X elevated the feast, celebrated on 2 October, to an obligatory double for the whole Church. On 5 April 1883, Pope Leo XIII raised the feast to the rank of a double major.

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“O angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom whose love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to rule and guard, to light and guide. Amen.” – Prayer to our guardian angel

1 Job 38:1,12-21;40:3-5
Mt 18:1-5,10

“…their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

In the final scenes of the movie, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) lays dying. Sitting on the ground, propped up against a destroyed motorcycle, he has been mortally wounded. As life ebbs away from him, he remains defiant. Using only his small hand pistol, he continues to shoot at an oncoming German Tiger tank, the most powerful armored vehicle in the world at the time. His bullets did not even leave a tiny dent on the Tiger’s six-inch armor plate. It was so futile. So ludicrous. It was a scene that seems a modern rendition of David versus Goliath. But lo and behold, on his fourth shot, the Tiger, suddenly and inexplicably, explodes into a ball of fire and thick black smoke. It was totally decimated. Piercing through the black smoke, an American P51 plane, known as the ‘Tankbuster’, shoots out and up into the sky – victorious. Captain Miller looks up, smiles and whispers: “Angels on our shoulders”.

Our Guardian Angels have been given to us by God to bring God’s love with us and for us — to watch over us and to journey each moment of our lives with us. As divine instruments to help us experience the Father’s love for us and to help us triumph over sin, hatred and death. A divine being sent exclusively to each of us, to journey with us. To be with us in moments of pain, of danger, of sorrow, of joy, of fear, of disappointment, of celebration, of peace, of despair and of hope. When we are in sin, and when we struggle against temptation to sin. In moments of divine inspiration and of earthly struggle.

We celebrate the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels today. But how many of us believe in Guardian Angels? How many of us know we each have a Guardian Angel? How many of us actually pray to our Guardian Angels? How many of us even care if we have a Guardian Angel? For those of us who are less than enthusiastic at the notion of having our own Guardian Angels, perhaps, we could ask ourselves, could it be due to our sense of prideful self-sufficiency? Or that perhaps we are unable to envision the divine power of our Guardian Angels, because we think they are but like us, stuck so deep down in the mire of this earthly existence and the inadequacies of our own human frailties and inadequacies?

In the homily of the funeral Mass for my mum 2 years ago, the celebrant shared that when we leave this earthly existence and return to God, they are no longer the same human person that we knew. They have been completely transformed into the true likeness and image of God. They take on His divinity. Finally free from sin and corruption, they are transfigured and restored to their original state of true divinity when God first created them. This was not only deeply comforting at a moment of sorrow in my life, but more importantly, it drove home the realization that, if we have been faithful to God in our earthly life, then we are all destined to become divine beings when we return to the bosom of God. That we too, one day, become Saints and Angels. We no longer carry all the inadequacies, sinfulness, selfishness, pride, self-righteousness and vindictiveness of our broken human nature. We become like Angels. We become of God. So too, our Guardian Angels. They are divine beings without any of the limitations of sinful and fallen humanity. And they are the ones God sent to us, as part of how He loves His own…with the tenderest and utmost care.

Do not make the grave mistake of denying yourself or undervaluing this most precious gift from God to us. Our Guardian Angels are sent by God to us, not only to stand over our shoulders to watch over us with divine power, but to also carry us on their shoulders, so that we too, will be able to have a glimpse of eternity, and be able to see that God’s love for us for extends into eternity, and far beyond.

And just like that ‘Tankbuster’ in the movie, our Guardian Angels pierce through the black cloud of our sins and of this fallen world, watching over us, protecting us and revealing the way to our own final victory.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer:  Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom Gods love commits me here. Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Keep our feet safely on the path of our daily lives and of salvation, both day and night. Keep us always in your care, guidance, intercession and protection.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for my Guardian Angel. For your gift of a divine friend that is steadfast, unfailing and ever watchful over me. That is given to me to help me reach beyond my earthly frailties, inadequacies and sins so that I can, by his help and grace, return to you in the fullness of my own divinity, which you have created me to be since before the beginning of time.

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