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Feast of St. Michael – Homily

This evening we celebrated a special Mass followed by a dish to pass supper to celebrate our parish feast day.  We were blessed to have about 100 people join us. Thank you to all who helped, especially the Altar & Rosary Society that coordinated the dinner.  Thank you to all who brought food.  It was wonderful.

Here is my homily for the Mass.

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
Revelation 12:7-12a
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
John 1:47-51
September 29, 2016

We gather here today for our parish feast, the Feast of St. Michael.  We should recognize that it is actually the Feast of the Archangels and so it includes Gabriel and Raphael along with Michael.

Angels are mentioned nearly three hundred times in the Bible.  We might wonder how many angels there are.  Well, Matthew 18:10 speaks of how we all have a Guardian Angel and there are a little over 7 billion people in the world today.  So that would mean there are at least 7 billion angels actively working as Guardian angels.

7 billion angels…. It isn’t enough.

Out of all the angels in Heaven, the Bible only tells us the names of three, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  Tonight, of course, we will focus on Michael.

St. Michael is probably most known for the scene described in our reading from Revelation (12:7-12a) where Michael leads the battle against the dragon.  The dragon is the image of Satan.  Satan was once an angel himself but, along with other angels, he rebelled against God.  He was defeated and cast out of Heaven along with those who fought on his side.

It might be hard to imagine angels rebelling against God.  They have seen God face to face.  How could they turn from God?  We must remember that just like us, angels are individual beings with free will.

For his role as the leader in the defeat of Satan, Michael is seen as our protector and thus is the patron saint of police officers as well as soldiers.

Michael is also a patron saints for doctors and in sickness.  This is because there is also a history of Michael as an intercessor for healing.  Our most common image today for Michael is what is seen in our new statue, Michael crushing the serpent as depicting in Revelation.  If you check your church art history you can also find Michael portrayed holding scales symbolizing justice and as a healer.

As I mention images of St. Michael I should mention the idea of idolatry.  There are Protestants who think that Catholics worship the images we have of the saints.  That would not be true.

We do not worship the images.  In fact we do not worship the saints in any way.  The images, whether they are statues, paintings, or prayer cards, simply serve to remind us of the saints in the same way one might keep pictures of your loved one.

As to worship, we do not worship the saints.  We venerate the saints.  To venerate is to show honor and respect.  We honor the saints because they are with God.  We ask for their intercession as they stand before God.  They do not do the miracles.  God does.

The saints intercede with their prayers before God.  In our Creed, we refer to the “Communion of Saints.”  We think of saints as those in Heaven but we are part of the Communion of Saints.  The Communion of Saints exists in three parts.  First are those already in Heaven.  The second are those in Purgatory undergoing final purification before entering Heaven.  The third is us, the church alive on Earth.  We ask for the intercession of the saints already in Heaven and in turn we pray for those in Purgatory.

But what do saints have to do with Michael?  He is an archangel.  Why do we call him Saint Michael?

Today, when we think of “saints,” we think of those humans who have died and have been raised up to Heaven.  At its most basic level, the word “saint” means “holy” and saints are those with the most Holy (God) in Heaven.  Thus angels are saints.

With this in mind, we call Michael Saint Michael.  For us in this parish, he is our patron saint.  This means we especially ask his intercession to watch over us as a parish as we seek to do God’s Will.

We are not just a bunch of individuals who come to the same building to worship God.  We are called to work together to help each other be “Raised in Christ.”  We need to support each other as we try to live in this world today.  We come together to celebrate Mass tonight.  It is good that we worship together.  Tonight we will not leave right after Mass.  We will go downstairs to share a meal together.  We will talk with one another, maybe with a friend, maybe with someone new.  The point is to be support each other as we try to live out our Catholic faith.  That means faith should be part of the conversation.

We need to strengthen one another.  It is not easy to be a Catholic today. Some people want to hear nothing about any faith.  Atheists deny the existence of God while agnostics doubt God’s existence but do not deny it.

Because people deny God’s existence, they do not accept the teachings of Christ as good ways to live.  Some of them still do good things but others, with nothing as a moral compass to guide them, fall prey to temptation and give into the temptations of the Evil One.

Our reading from Revelation today depicted the defeat of Satan in Heaven.  Evil was cast out of Heaven that day but evil still exists today.  We see it in the shootings.  We see it in the terrorism.  We see in the taking of innocent lives.

I said before 7 billion angels is not enough.  We are still doing battle against temptation and so we need the angels’, especially St. Michael’s, assistance to defend us in battle.  In just a moment we will offer our Prayers of Faithful.  Today we will end our prayers by saying together the prayer of St. Michael that is on the cards that were on the tables as you came in to ask for St. Michael’s intercession to defend us against temptation and evil.

 

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

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