“ANGELS BEHOLDING THE FACE OF GOD”
Saint Matthew 18. 1-11
Saint Michael’s and All Angels’ Day: [transferred]
28 September Anno + Domini 2014
Fr Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
The question is “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It was The Lords question to the “12.” It’s the Lords question to your sinful “old Adam” as well. With false self-modesty you would never claim that you are the greatest. But deep down inside you do think you’re pretty special and that at least you’re a whole lot better than pagans, heathen, liberals, foreigners, Muslims, and homosexuals. No, no you’re not. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no one who does good no not one. Repent. The intelligent man is not greater than the unlearned or even willingly ignorant man. The gifted woman is not greater than the unskilled woman. The married couple with a bunch of wonderfull children are not greater than the single and solitary. The chaste are not greater than the immoral and the honest are not greater than the cheats. To be sure, The Lord wants, indeed commands you and everyone, to obey the 10 Commandments—all the time. It is sinful to harm your neighbor and sinful to refrain from helping your neighbor…which is everyone else! But His words as recorded by Saint Matthew are not about your new life of sanctified Grace and naturally flowing good works. He is talking about Holy Baptism. He is talking about Angels. He is talking about His soon-to-be “Apostles” and the nature of Grace.
Jesus calls for a little child and sets the lad in the midst of them. I submit He sat the boy on His own lap and tenderly embraced him. Even as infants are the templates for reception into the Kingdom of God so too are young children examples of innocent and trusting faith in the love of The Father.
Christ is talking about Himself and giving Himself to the disciples, all disciples, through His Word. You don’t convert yourself. You don’t become “as little children” through an act of effort, prayer or discipline. All adoption is by way of gift. Thus, Christ does all the giving, the heavy-lifting, and the work. “Whoever thereof shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This is Jesus.
Earlier He had said: “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” [Mt. 11.11]
Jesus is the smallest, the littlest, the humblest One, for He veiled His Godhood and in His assumed Flesh and Blood from the Virgin obeyed the Law and did the work of God. From His small and meek birth at the manger to His unassuming first 30 years or so He dutifully kept the Commandments for all…for all of you who like to lord it over your neighbor and preen in the mirror of ego. Jesus is the little child, the Only Begotten Child of the Father, Who meekly let Himself be led to the Cross as the dumb Lamb of Sacrifice, not uttering a cry or complaint. Paul tells you what God the Spirit wants you to believe: “…the weakness of God is stronger than men,” and “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” [1 Cor. 1. 25, 27] Not only Jesus as the “suffering servant” Messiah, the “one little word” that fells the devil and all his wiles, but also the small and normal “means of grace” which are despised by the largeness of the world and the largeness of your sinful selves. Not the mighty raging river Pharpar of Syria, but the Jordan healed Naaman. Not the manly and self-chosen decision of willpower, but the humble and despised font in a chancel. Not the wealth and works of “good deeds” but wine and bread that His self-same small word makes His true Body and real Blood. Not in numbers, and concert hall-sized structures of opulence, but in pews, pulpits and altars. Not with faux miracles and emotionally laden trickery but with preaching: “Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” [v.23]
But pastor, what about the angels, what about Saint Michael the Archangel? These spirit creatures are Gods ministers and servants…His (mostly) invisible messengers and guardians of His flock. Holy Sheepdogs said George Herbert, or maybe the fingertips, as the Seraphim are the “fiery ones,” of the Holy Ghost. Post fall, post Eden, the angels are the “little ones” of God who are yet greater than all the demons and devils. They are “types” and pictures of what the “12” and their successors were to be and are to be.
Do not despise children. Be fruitful and multiply. Protect life from natural conception to natural death. Do not neglect appreciation and thanksgiving for your guardian angels and be dutiful in praying Luther’s morning and evening prayers. Receive the little children, the pastors in your midst; receive and believe their catechesis and doctrine for it is simply their master’s words—the deposit of the faith “once delivered unto the saints” [Jude 3] Do not offend them by denying Christ or by apostatizing from your Baptismal Grace. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for they when they preach the Word and when they administer the Sacraments they are like their angel “types” which behold the face of Christ’s Father which is in heaven. For when you receive through Faith, by Grace, the Apostle of Jesus you receive Jesus…you receive the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
I invite you now once again to dine with your Messiah, and with Saint Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and all the heavenly host.
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost