Memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels | October 2, 2021
Merriam-Webster defines a “guardian” as “one who has the care of a person or property of another.” While guardianship can often mean a form of defense and protection, the formal definition highlights a duty of care. That is a good emphasis to consider on this day as the church celebrates the Memorial of the Guardian Angels.
The commemoration of guardian angels remembers the messengers of God who are charged with the care and protection of persons, whole peoples, nations and the whole of humanity. It has been celebrated formally by the church since the 16th century, but the recognition of the role of angels has been part of Christian faith since its beginning. In fact, it has its roots in Judaism. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament we see the frequent activity of “angelos” – the Greek word for messenger – as these spiritual beings become intermediaries to convey the Word of God and the will of God to people. Angels share good news and also warnings from God to the people throughout the Bible.
The duty of care of the guardian angels flows from God’s own identity as our “primary caregiver.” Today’s readings remind us of the importance of letting God lead us into the best paths for our lives.
In the first reading and the psalm today, God is presented as a caring guardian. While the first reading from the prophet Baruch starts by highlighting the failures of the people to be faithful to the covenant God had made with them, we are told that God remained faithful to the duty of care.
God did not desire the destruction or harm which befell them; rather, it was because they did not follow God’s law of care for one another that disaster fell. But in the voice of the city of Jerusalem itself, which was under siege during the prophet’s time, the reading reminds us that turning away from those failures will bring back joy and avert disaster. God’s desire is always to show great power through great care and compassion! The psalm reminds us , too, that God’s most attentive care is always focused on the poor.
And in the Gospel Jesus speaks about the attitude of care that should mark the mission of Christian disciples. When we act in a spirit of humble care we become greatest in God’s Reign. This humility is not about debasing ourselves or treating ourselves as worthless. It is the opposite – being open to the worthiness with which God sees each of us and all of us. It is also a reminder that every life is precious in God’s eyes – whether it is the unborn child, an immigrant fleeing natural disaster, a refugee fleeing violence in his or her homeland, a single parent struggling to care for a family, a person struggling with a terminal illness or with mental illness or depression.
It is thus appropriate as the church begins observance of Respect Life Month, that we hear of God’s own duty of care which is part of God’s own nature of love for each of us. And it is fitting that we begin this month reminding ourselves of the Guardian Angels who stand watch over each and every human life.
Perhaps we need the reminder when we are tempted to do things or say things that harm the dignity of others that God so values the lives of those we might dismiss too easily that there is a unique angel watching over them. Who are we to say that they are not of value?
Guardian angels are a part of the entire vision of care which God desires for the church and for the whole human community. Indeed, as Pope Francis has reminded us, God’s vision of care extends to the whole of creation. The Holy Father invites us to be more attentive to care for the earth, the environment, and for each other, especially those who are poor and marginalized. As we pray in thanksgiving for the guardian angels, let us ask for God’s guidance through them to be guardians with them and with God for one another.
May God give you peace!