Year of Mercy October Reflections
by Father Reginald Martin OP
This year the feast of the Guardian Angels falls on Sunday, so we will not have the opportunity to celebrate (liturgically) these powerful reminders of God’s mercy, and their powerful challenge to embrace and share that mercy. Nonetheless, let us reflect on the immense gift we have received in our angel guardians, and – especially as we draw near the end of the Year of Mercy – consider how they call us to be ministers of God’s mercy.
In the gospel reading for the angels’ Mass, Jesus says,
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. See that you do not despise one of these little ones….” (Mt. 18: 5, 10)
When we offer the Prayer of the Order, we pledge ourselves to “practice charity towards [our] neighbors, especially the poor and the sick.” Children are a class of individuals who are often helpless, friendless, defenseless and poor. Children – and those who are child-like – have a special claim on us because they vividly represent the needy Christ in our midst. Jesus tells us that if touch the need in those around us, then we enjoy the privilege of touching Him.
In his letter to introduce this Year of Mercy, when he considers the spiritual works of mercy, our Holy Father singles out children, and admonishes us
We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us…they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged; whether we have…helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty. (MV, 15)
“Whoever humbles himself like this child,” Jesus says, “is greatest in this kingdom of heaven.” These words suggest we have a choice. There’s very little to be admired in the down and out poverty we see on the street every day, or read about in the newspaper. But Jesus says we gain a great deal from voluntarily choosing to live “as if” we were as poor and powerless as those we are called to serve.
Among the aids God offers as we face this choice is the company of guardian angels. St. Basil the Great taught, “Every one of the faithful has an angel standing at his side as educator and guide, directing his life.” And St. Jerome said, “How great is the value of the (human) soul that every single person has from birth received an angel for his protection.”
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” In the Scripture, “child” is an ambivalent term. It can mean a small – young – person, it can mean an heir, and it can mean a beginner. Most of us are too old to fall into the first category. Jesus promises all of us a place in the second. But each of us, every day, must strive to learn what Jesus asks of us. We must be very grateful, then, for the company of the angels whom God has given us – not only for our protection, but for our education and merciful guidance.