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The Guardian Angels – October 2nd
Readings: Neh 2:1-8 ; Mt 18:1-5, 10
1/ First Reading: RSV Nehemiah 2:1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lays waste, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “For what do you make request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ sepulchers, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah; 8 and a letter to Asp, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house which I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
I. THEME: The angels shall protect you on all your ways.
If people look back at God’s providence for their life, they can’t blame anything on God because He does all things so people can live in peace and happiness. For examples, He gives them the Law so that they know how to correctly live their relationships with God and others. When they disobey His law, He sent His prophet to rebuke and to call them to the right way many times before He punished them. Moreover, in His providence for them, He also gives each of them the guardian angel to accompany, to care for and to protect them.
Today readings emphasize God’s providence for people. In the first reading, Nehemiah, though he is living a safe and prosperous life in the royal palace of the Persian king; but he felt sad about the unsafe situation of the new temple which had just been built in Jerusalem. When Artaxerxes, the Persian king, asked him the reason of his sadness, he told it and asked the king to help him to rebuild the wall to protect the new temple and his ancestors’ tombs. Under God’s providence, the king let him go and provided him with all necessary means to rebuild the wall. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples to avoid the human way to have power and to become greatest; and to learn the divine way to become great before God by becoming humble as a child and serving others, especially those who have no one to help them. In addition, they must absolutely avoid treating the young and the poor unjustly, because their guardian angels always protect them before God’s throne.
1/ Reading I: How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried, lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?
1.1/ Nehemiah’s will is to rebuild the Holy City’s wall: He is the Jews in exile and the one in charge of wine in the Artasersex’s court. His duty is to taste all food and drink before the king eats or drinks to guarantee the freshness of food and safety for the king. Even though he had everything he needs but he still feels sad when he thought about the Holy City’s wall, where his ancestors spent much time and effort to build up, and now still lies in ruins.
When the king Artasersex recognized his sorrow, the king asked him: “Why do you look sad? If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart.” Though he was seized with great fear, he answered the king: “May the king live forever! How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?” The king asked him, “What is it, then, that you wish?” He prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king: “If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, to rebuild it.” The king agreed to let him go, and he promised to be back after a certain time.
1.2/ God is the one who helped Nehemiah to get everything he needed: After getting the permission to go back, Nehemiah prayed to God, and then he returned to the king and asked further: “If it please the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of West-of-Euphrates, that they may afford me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah; also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal park, that he may give me wood for timbering the gates of the temple-citadel and for the city wall and the house that I shall occupy.” The king who is under God’s spirit agreed with everything Nehemiah asked. Then, Nehemiah and Ezra rebuilt the Jerusalem in a very short time.
2/ Gospel: Their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
2.1/ Serving others, especially the children, is the condition to enter the heavenly kingdom: The desire to be well-known, to be the most important person, is the dream of many people living in the world. This desire also happened for Jesus’ disciples, when they approached him and questioned, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Jesus calls a child and puts him in their midst and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We learn two important things through Jesus’ answer:
(1) We must be humble, to lower ourselves, to enter the kingdom of heaven: Children don’t desire to have power and higher position; they are content with their parent’s love, care and protection. These must also be the attitudes of Jesus’ disciples. Why do we need to have power and higher position when God is loving, caring for and protecting us? The desire to be powerful not only doesn’t add anything to us, but also causes us to gradually be far from God. All of us should know the reason for Lucifer’s and the first couple’s falling.
(2) We must serve the lowly and the children because of God’s name: Another bad habit in us is wanting to be served, not to serve others. Jesus taught his disciples to avoid this bad habit by learning the virtue of charity: to serve the children and those in need because of Christ’s name. These people have nothing to give back for the disciples, and this is the motivation which Jesus wants his disciples to serve so God shall reward your serving. In chapter 25, Jesus is clearer, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).
2.2/ Each faithful has a guardian angel: The Church’s faith about the guardian angels is based on what Jesus announced today, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Two important things we can draw from this sentence:
(1) God protects all people: In God’s providence, He uses angels to help Him in controlling things that happen in the world. Each faithful, regardless of their size and social position, has a guardian angel to instruct, to care for and to protect in their life. Each faithful has a duty to listen and to obey their guardian angel so that they might avoid all dangerous things that can happen in their life.
(2) To do bad thing to people is to do it to God Himself: Many people have a tendency to maltreat the children, the weak and the oppressed because they think these people have no power to stand against them. But Jesus’ saying today should be the serious warning for those who have this bad tendency. Even though they can maltreat these people in this life, they shall not be able to avoid the guardian angel’s accusation before God’s court.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should always be conscience about our guardian angel’s presence and listen to their instruction so that we might avoid the devil’s temptations and the dangers of our life.
– We should be content with God’s love, care and protection. The desires to have power and high position don’t add anything good for our salvation.