“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” – Mark 10:45
Dearly Beloved Sisters and Brothers of Jesus, may the peace, love and presence of the Lord be with you all. The amazing glory of God surrounds everything He has brought into existence. The gift of a new day in a new month speaks about the God who wants to do more for his children, blessing us with more opportunities to better our lives and standards of living, that takes into consideration a healthy integration of people and resources; the God who grants us the grace to celebrate, and partake of the Eucharistic sacrifice, the offering of His Son to Him as a blessed memorial. God is always communicating with His children and it befits us to listen in order to glean the message He has for us.
This month, we celebrate among other beautiful ceremonies, the feast of the Archangels – Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, through whose names God communicates something of Himself to us. These three are properly called the Archangels because they have been given specific extra powers and roles by God, as the word “archangel” means high-ranking angel. Well, it may have crossed your mind to ask why they are called “Saints” if they are angels and not human beings. The word ‘Saint’ from the Greek ‘hagios’ means ‘holy one’. The word is not applied solely to human beings and since Michael, Gabriel and Raphael chose to side with God rather than Lucifer, they are holy angels – in other words Saints.
The Archangel Michael whose name means “who is like God” [bringing to mind the content of Israelite’s first song in Exodus 15: 1-18] conveys the sovereignty of God over all He has made. In the Sacred Scriptures, much of what we know about Michael comes from the book of Revelation and Jude’s letter. He is portrayed as in a battle with the devil, the mastermind and epitome of all that stands in contrast with God. God is Good [Mark 10:18; James 1:17] God is Love [1Jn 4:8; and these two attributes are put together in 1 Chronicles 16:34]. The God who is good and love dwells in a community of love [Trinity]. Anything that stands as an opposition to these divine blessings of love, unity and goodness cannot be given a chance to rise.
The devil is the meaning of opposition to God and the archangel Michael has been charged to engage such inferior and arrogant powers. According to Holy Scripture and Tradition, he has interceded for humanity multiple times and is most often invoked for protection. Rightly so, Michael is the Archangel that defends the Church against the forces of evil, hence he is called the angel of deliverance and defender of faith.
By the action of this angel, God is known as the protector of His people, He is their fortress, stronghold and their security. This is very paramount in the scriptures, God defending and protecting those who trust and hope in him.
What does this mean for us especially as nation? Every government so to say, enjoys the trust of its citizens, therefore it is responsible for the security of their lives and properties from internal and external confrontations. Whatever threatens the peaceful co-existence, growth and common good of a Nation should be resisted vehemently. This is the example laid down by Michael the Archangel. However it is sad that in a country like Nigeria, the security forces do not enjoy a credible vote of confidence from the citizens. The situation is as bitter to narrate as experienced whereby a country’s peace is held bound by some internal monstrous elements that pose as a herculean task to the country’s security and defense intelligence. How about the incomprehensible rift between security forces that have turned them into ‘enemies’ and one extinguishing life from the other? What of the intolerant show of high level irresponsibility by these security agents in the handling of rifles and ammunitions? A lot of persons have been victims of these reckless circumstances. How long can this go on? How much longer can the country wait to breathe freely in an atmosphere of tranquility and security? Whatever stands in opposition to the wellbeing of the citizenry should ipso facto be dealt a serious confrontation to quarantine its menace from spreading. The country needs men and women, who choose to see the vulnerability of the citizenry and not fold their arms in indifference but stand up to this evil. This is exactly what God wants, the reign of His kingdom of peace, unity, love even in our socio-political and economic domain.
Archangel Gabriel whose name means “God is my strength” is known as the angel of revelation because God often charges Gabriel to communicate important messages. In art, the angel is depicted blowing a horn. Since by our makeup, human beings must communicate with one another, the Archangel Gabriel works closely with those who invoke him specifically in the areas of communication – communicating with children, parents, teachers, family and friends.
In the episode of the Annunciation recorded in the Gospel of Luke 1:26-38 the angel Gabriel is specifically mentioned to have appeared to Mary. He brings the good news of salvation, the news of how God intends to dwell in the midst of his creatures in a way that will feel more intimate, the news of what God already had done in the life of a supposed barren woman.
All of these are very important as they speak to our media of communication that should be clear and honest in its content and delivery; journalism that is crisp and clinical in its method to present the facts as authentic as possible without undue sentiments or prejudices. It awakens the need to strengthen our research methodology in finding new but healthy ground breaking ways to achieving great feats or addressing pertinent issues.
In the book of the Prophet Daniel 9:22, the angel Gabriel comes to help Daniel with a vision he grapples with. The angel brings wisdom and understanding to Daniel while he prayed. Insight and clarity about any issue of Personal or National interest is not something to be downplayed. The ministry of Gabriel addresses the education system of our Nation, it poses a challenge to the level of concern and emphasis the nation places on education to meet the rising demands of high standards. What can be said about our education system – the schools and curriculum? How much of resources is invested in quality research? The Archangel Gabriel is evidently the “minster of information” and it would not be too much to place him before any man/woman who occupies that ministry in a regime as a perfect example of correctly fulfilling that role.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed unbridled tongues of lies and falsehood speak to the public and presenting as true what is evidently false to the ‘blind and deaf.’ How sadder can it get when well-meaning outspoken men and women are harassed for speaking truth to power OR the jailing of sincere and hardworking journalists who are resolved to get the real gist of a situation? These ills cannot be left to fester. A remedy is needed urgently else it will be a total crumbling of what is left and by then will there be anything to save?
The Archangel Raphael is the third whose name means “God heals.” This is the angel designated for physical and emotional healing. The Scriptures speak of God as our healer (Ps 107:20, Ex 15:26, Deut 7:15, Jer 30:17) and in Jesus we see how God heals us with his presence. The archangel Raphael conveying the healing of God can help reduce addictions, cravings and to remove stressors that may adversely affect one’s health. It is by the Power of the Almighty and Ever living God that life and health is given, and the ingenuity of man’s modern techniques by which healing comes through the hands of medical practitioners redound to Almighty God’s glory.
A lot of persons are in need of healing. The physical, psychological and emotional wellness of any human person is paramount. As the popular maxim goes thus ‘Health is wealth’. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. The ministry of Raphael is set before us as a classical example. A nation cannot be the cause of its citizens’ malady when it should instead seek ways to bring comfort, solace and healing to them.
The increase in mortality rate can be prompted by a number of factors inclusive of inadequate or poor medical system, incompetent medical personnel or fake identity, low level commitment to the cause of saving lives because of corrupt practices. The resulting consequence is an outright disregard for the sanctity of life and health. The wealth of a nation cannot be measured simply by the economic powers it wields but the sanity and health of her citizens. The pain and misery caused by irresponsible individuals has to be alleviated.
Dear friends in Christ, it is normal to think that because Archangels are pure spirits, to learn from them may prove very difficult. On the contrary, the Archangels, from their respective names are teaching us to always seek to do the will of God first and above all and seek the good of humanity. As Christians, we are not left out of this clarion call, to defend and uphold what is right and true; to bring the message of good news to all and sundry; to offer words and do things that will bring about healing and comfort in our immediate environment.
One of the things that distinguish us as men and women of Faith is our belief in the powerful and almighty God whose power is beyond limits. As I had said in the monthly circular for the Priests, Religious and Laity in the Archdiocese of Lagos, which I wish to reiterate here, the heightened situation of insecurity and tension in the country today has compelled us to ask that we all renew our commitment to the prayers for our nation. I encourage the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary by individuals, families and Associations of lay faithful for peace and harmony in the country. Remember, the Holy Rosary is an effective weapon in moments of difficulty and in the fight against all forms of evil. Let us, as individuals pray and fast on Fridays in particular; let Associations and groups pray as they gather for their meetings; let the entire Parish come together on Sunday evenings for prayers. This is the time we need to rise to the occasion as men and women, as a community to call on the living and true God to come to our aid.
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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