Image credit: St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church, Troy, Michigan.
Hardcore Catholics know today’s feast day. No need for me to recount that here. I’m sure the Catholic blogosphere is chock-full of great reflections on it.
Here in the northeast quarter of Iowa, Raphael is one of our diocesan patrons. If you check the readings of the day, you’ll see “or” inserted between the Daniel and Revelation passages. I wonder how many parishes here will stop at “or” and not treat today as the higher level of liturgical observance that it is. Most September 29th Masses in the Archdiocese of Dubuque have been celebrated today. But I bet almost all of them only read two readings rather than three.
I don’t like that Michael gets the main stage today. One Lectionary improvement might be to add this passage from the book of Tobit as an option for the day:
Tobiah went out to look for someone who would travel with him to Media, someone who knew the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing before him (though he did not know that this was an angel of God). Tobiah said to him, “Where do you come from, young man?”
He replied, “I am an Israelite, one of your kindred. I have come here to work.”
Tobiah said to him, “Do you know the way to Media?”
Yes,” he replied, “I have been there many times. I know the place well and am acquainted with all the routes. I have often traveled to Media; I used to stay with our kinsman Gabael, who lives at Rages in Media. It is a good two days’ journey from Ecbatana to Rages, for Rages is situated in the mountains, but Ecbatana is in the middle of the plain.”
Tobiah said to him, “Wait for me, young man, till I go in and tell my father; for I need you to make the journey with me. I will pay you your wages.”
He replied, “Very well, I will wait; but do not be long.” (Tobit 5:4-8)
Raphael is the prototypical guardian angel. He doesn’t quite have his southwest Asian geography correct, but he will get his charge to the proper destination. Did you notice that the angel has come to Tobiah to work? I was also struck by the curious urging to hurry at the very end of this passage.
Another thought for a Lectionary reading would be toward the end of the book, when Tobiah, having absorbed his father’s lessons of generosity and gratitude, offers his travel guide half of all the riches he has brought back from his trip. The angel offers good Jewish advice, then reveals his true identity:
Raphael called the two of them aside privately and said to them: “Bless God and give him thanks before all the living for the good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slack in thanking him. A king’s secret should be kept secret, but one must declare the works of God and give thanks with due honor. Do good, and evil will not overtake you. Prayer with fasting is good. Almsgiving with righteousness is better than wealth with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold, for almsgiving saves from death, and purges all sin. Those who give alms will enjoy a full life, but those who commit sin and do evil are their own worst enemies.
“I shall now tell you the whole truth and conceal nothing at all from you. I have already said to you, ‘A king’s secret should be kept secret, but one must declare the works of God with due honor.’ Now when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed, it was I who presented the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and likewise whenever you used to bury the dead.When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury that dead man, I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”
Greatly shaken, the two of them fell prostrate in fear. But Raphael said to them: “Do not fear; peace be with you! Bless God now and forever. As for me, when I was with you, I was not acting out of any favor on my part, but by God’s will. So bless God every day; give praise with song. (Tobit 12:6-18)
Give praise with song: the best advice in the whole narrative. Have an angelic day, you readers.