Lectio Divina: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
1) Opening prayer
You show Your almighty power
in Your mercy and forgiveness.
Continue to fill us with Your gifts of love.
Help us to hurry towards the eternal life Your promise
and come to share in the joys of Your kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 1:47-51
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Jesus answered and said to him, "Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." And he said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
• Today’s Gospel presents the dialogue between Jesus and Nathanael in which the following phrase appears: “In all truth I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of Man“. This phrase helps to clarify something concerning the archangels.
• John 1:47-49: The conversation between Jesus and Nathanael. Philip took Nathanael to Jesus (Jn 1:45-46). Nathanael had exclaimed: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael was from Cana, which was close to Nazareth. Seeing Nathanael, Jesus said: “There, truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deception!” And He affirms that He knew him already when he was under the fig tree. How could Nathanael be an “authentic Israelite”, if he did not accept Jesus as Messiah? Nathanael “was under the fig tree”. The fig tree was the symbol of Israel (cf. Mq 4:4; Zc 3:10; 1K:5,5). “To be under the fig tree” was the same as being faithful to the project of the God of Israel. The authentic Israelite is the one who knows how to detach himself from his own ideas when he perceives that these are not in agreement with God’s project. The Israelite who is not ready to converse is neither authentic nor honest. Nathanael is authentic. He expected the Messiah according to the official teaching of that time, according to which the Messiah came from Bethlehem in Judea. The Messiah could not come from Nazareth in Galilee (Jn 7:41-42.52). This is why Nathanael resists accepting Jesus as Messiah. But the encounter with Jesus helps him to become aware that God’s project is not always as one imagines it or desires that it be. Nathanael recognizes his own deception, he changes his idea, accepts Jesus as Messiah and confesses: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!”
• The diversity of the call. The Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke present the call of the first disciples in quite a brief way: Jesus walks along the seashore, and He calls Peter and Andrew. Then He calls John and James (Mk 1:16-20). The Gospel of John has a different way of describing the beginning of the first community which was formed around Jesus. John does it by narrating very concrete stories. One is struck by the variety of the calls and of the encounters of persons among themselves and with Jesus. Thus John teaches what is necessary to do to begin a community. It is by means of contacts and personal invitations, and it is like that even today! Jesus calls some directly (Jn 1:43). Others indirectly (Jn 1:41-42). One day He called two disciples of John the Baptist (Jn 1:39). The following day He called Philip who, in turn, called Nathanael (Jn 1:45). No call is repeated because every person is diverse. People will never forget the important calls which have marked their life. One even remembers the hour and the day (Jn 1:39).
• John 1:50-51: The angels of God who descend and ascend on the Son of Man. The confession of Nathanael is only at the beginning. Anyone who is faithful, will see heaven open and the angels who go up and descend on the Son of Man. They will experience that Jesus is the new bond of union between God and us, human beings. It is the realization of the dream of Jacob (Gn 28:10-22).
• The angels who go up and descend the ladder. The three Archangels: Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. Gabriel explained to prophet Daniel the meaning of the vision (Dn 8:16; 9:21). The angel Gabriel also took God’s message to Elizabeth (Lk 1:19) and to Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Lk 1:26). His name means “God is strong”. Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit. He accompanies Tobias, the son of Tobit and of Anna, throughout the trip and protects him from all danger. He helps Tobias to liberate Sara from the evil spirit and to cure Tobit, his father, from his blindness. His name means “God heals”. Michael helped the prophet Daniel in his struggles and difficulties (Dn 10:13.21; 12:1). The letter of Jude says that Michael disputed with the devil over the body of Moses (Jude 1:9). It was Michael who obtained victory over Satan, throwing him out of Heaven and throwing him into hell (RV 12:7). His name means: “Who is like God!” The word ‘angel’ means messenger. He takes a message from God. In the bible, the entire nature could be the messenger of God Himself, when it turns its face on us and reveals God’s love for us (Ps 104:4). The angel can be God Himself, when He turns His face on us and reveals His loving presence to us.
4) Personal questions
• Have you already had some encounter which has marked your whole life? How have you discovered the call of God there?
• Have you been interested, some times, like Philip, to call another person to participate in the community?
5) Concluding Prayer
I thank You, Yahweh, with all my heart,
for You have listened to the cry I uttered.
In the presence of angels I sing to You,
I bow down before Your holy Temple. (Ps 138:1-2)