St Matthew ends his narration of the temptations of Our Lord with this verse: Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Let us look for a moment at this appearance of angels in Jesus’ life, for it will help us to understand their role – the role, that is, of their angelic mission – in all human life. Christian tradition describes the guardian angels as powerful friends, placed by God alongside each one of us, to accompany us on our way. And that is why He invites us to make friends with them and get them to help us.
In suggesting that we meditate on these passages of the life of Christ, the Church reminds us that during Lent, when we recognise our sins, our wretchedness and our need for purification, there is also room for our joy. Lent is a time for both bravery and joy; we have to fill ourselves with courage, for the grace of God will not fail us. God will be at our side and will send his angels to be our travelling companions, our prudent advisers along the way, our co-operators in all that we take on.
Holy Scripture and Tradition rightly give the name of angels to those pure spirits who chose God, his kingdom and his glory when they were given the fundamental test of freedom. They are charged with protecting all men. We read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?
It is common doctrine that each and every man, baptised or not, has his guardian angel. The angel’s mission begins with the conception of a man and continues up to the moment of his death. St John Chrysostom affirms that all the guardian angels will gather together at the universal judgement in order to bear witness themselves to the ministry that they exercised through God’s command for the salvation of each man.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we find a number of passages which tell us about the intervention of these holy angels and about the confidence that the first Christians had in them.
This trust and veneration of our first brothers in the Faith for the angels is particularly highlighted in the account of the freeing of St Peter from prison: An angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell, and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly’. And the chains fell from off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals’. And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your mantle around you and follow me’.
As soon as he had been set free, Peter went to the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a maid named Rhoda came to answer it. Recognising Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and told them that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are mad’. But she insisted that it was so. They said, ‘It is his angel’. This incident shows us what great affection the first Christians felt for Peter as well as the great naturalness of their faith in the guardian angels.
See on what intimate terms the early Christians were with their guardian angels. And you?
We too have to get to know them in a natural and confident way, and we will often be amazed at the help they give us to overcome in our struggle against the evil one. We receive valuable help from the good angels, messengers of God’s love. We have been taught by the tradition of the Church to direct our prayer to them: ‘Angel of God, you are my guardian, enlighten my mind, guard me, direct me and govern me, for I have been entrusted to your celestial care. Amen.’