ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS
In 1 Peter 1:12 we find a fascinating reference to the theme of today's feast: “which things the angels desire to look into.” The inspired apostle was expounding the glory of the gospel, revealed only in a limited degree to the prophets of the Old Testament, of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” His point: those who know Christ are privileged to an amazing degree, surpassing those who came before Christ and even surpassing the angels themselves. Peter strongly suggests that (hold your breath!) it is better to be a Christian than to be an angel!
C. S. Lewis devoted an entire novel to this theme, in his delightful work _Out of the Silent Planet._ I hope you will read it. Why? Because angels are sinless. On every other saint's day, we can develop an entire sermon on the template “Every saint is a redeemed sinner, and whereas St. ---- was once a sinner, you too may be a saint.” But that sermon does not work today, as angels are sinless. They do not need a Saviour and will never experience the joy of salvation. They are bound to be curious and amazed at what God has done for our rescue and rehabilitation.
The story of Michael in combat with a huge throng of rebellious angels is the first reading today. Although the Biblical text itself seems to leave this account in unspecified time, a strong Christian tradition views this as taking place before creation. But the intriguing and unanswered question in this passage is what prompted the rebellion of the angels who followed the mysterious dragon. What started this mutiny of some (not all) angels against their Creator?
We have no clear Biblical answer. But an ancient Christian insight speculates that the angels had heard a rumor in heaven that God would shortly create another, lower, material being, that He would love this human race enough to redeem it from sin, that He would even become flesh Himself, and even die on the cross for our salvation.
Certain angels felt this was beneath God's dignity. God, they believed, should not stoop so low for a worthless and undeserving creature. So they rebelled and began a war in heaven. But, thanks be to God, they “prevailed not.”
Why is it better to be a Christian than an angel? Because Christians have been blessed with a far greater measure of God's love. Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, has loved us enough to die for us. How can the angels not be amazed?
Isaac Watts wrote well, in a hymn I wish our Hymnal contained:
"Worthy the Lamb that died," they cry,
"to be exalted thus;"
"Worthy the Lamb," our lips reply,
"For He has died for us."
The angels who remained holy and obedient now join with us in adoration of the Lamb who was slain, not for them, but for us. “Therefore with angels, and archangels, and with all the company of heaven....”