29 September 2019
Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
John 1:47-51 + Homily
18 Minutes 37 Seconds
From the parish bulletin:
In thinking of angels, you need humility, for a couple of reasons. First of all, a cynical culture mocks anyone who believes that angels exist in any way that is real rather than sentimental. Secondly, since angels, who were created before humans, are intelligent beyond any material measurement, that means they are smarter than any human. And so, by comparison we must seem very stupid.
But angels are humble too, although for a different reason. They can actually see God, so they are perpetually aware of their inferiority. In their perfect humility, they rejoice in that fact, and their subservience to their Creator makes them shine in glory. Chesterton rallied symbolic language to say that angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.
At each Mass, angels gather at the altar. This Sunday in our church there will be a special kind of holy commotion because it is our parish’s patronal feast, with our patron never failing to be present. Saint Michael, as an archangel along with Gabriel and Raphael, has a symbolic name. (Michael means “Who is like God?”.) Surely it was by some inspiration, when the parish was established in 1857 with boundaries originally from 28th to 38th Streets and from 6th Avenue to the banks of the Hudson River, that Saint Michael, who casts “into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl through the world,” was made protector of what the police would come to call “Hell’s Kitchen.”
While crime and dereliction are still around (after a recent Vigil Mass there was a brawl in front of the church, but a dozen policemen quickly came to help us), our streets are much different now. There are new hotels, fine restaurants and elegant shops. We are at the center of the biggest real estate development in the history of the United States. A few years ago, the future of our church building itself was at risk. While maintenance costs continue at a level that could seem daunting, the burden does not weigh heavily considering what can be accomplished. In that sense, we can reach new heights if, like the angels, we take ourselves lightly.
Now the challenge is to bring those who are out on the street into God’s House. There is a daily stream of tourists stopping in to visit. The silent witness of our own people at prayer throughout the day can be, and in many instances already has been, an effective work of evangelism, turning picture-taking into worship.
To have such potential is a big responsibility. “From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The hulking skyscrapers rising all around here may seem intimidating, but through the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, they can also be like Jacob’s ladder, on which the angels move up and down, connecting our temporal lives with life eternal.