October 2, 2014 - FEAST OF GUARDIAN ANGELS :

EXODUS 23:20-33 ; MATTHEW 18:1-5,10

That Jesus was inwardly free and possessed an independent spirit that was a striking feature of his personality was made evident already when he was but twelve years of age.  Early in his public life he manifested this courageous independence repeatedly. Even in such humble acts as submitting to the Baptist at his baptism, Jesus decides how to proceed.  John, though formally the one in charge of the Rite, spontaneously is moved to yield place to our Lord at his word.  This same air of authority characterized Christ's behavior after his struggle in accepting the Father's will. When appearing before the highest civil and religious figures during his passion, though bound and treated with violence and contempt he never displays the least fear or even anxiety in dealings with them.  In fact, throughout his life so confident and free was he that, unless the situation required a display of such independence, he rarely needed to assert it.

In today's liturgy, we are presented with another feature of his personality and behavior in his dealings with others-- his gentleness and meekness.  He manifests these qualities to his closest followers in order to teach them the importance of humility in our relations with God and with others.  He does so by expressing his respect and affection for little children.  He goes further, in fact, and presents the child he embraces as a model for his disciples to imitate.  "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."  Still more paradoxically he identifies himself with children. "Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me." By way of indicating how lovingly God the Father regards the little ones and cares for them in a way that adds to their innate dignity: "I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father."

As we honor the guardian angels at this Eucharist today, we are encouraged and even warned, to cultivate a practical respect not only for little children, showing regard for their training and contributing to it as circumstances allow, but for all persons. Nowhere does Scripture imply that upon reaching adult status, the individual is no longer provided with the care of an angel.  In the Psalm 94 that we pray every night at Compline we are assured that God has given his angels charge over us "to keep us in all our ways."

Consideration of the fact that our heavenly Father shows special care to each of us as an incentive to trusting faith in His love and Providence leads to deeper sensitivity in our service to our Creator and also in our attitude of respect for one another.  May this liturgy in honor of our Holy Guardian angels this evening obtain for us participating in this Sacrament of the Altar a strengthening of our faith and reinforce our resolve to respond to the gifts of God's love and His care through our Guardian Angels.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger