Vatican City (AsiaNews) – There is an intrinsic bond between a bishop’s ministry and the mission of angels: Benedict XVI said this in his homily in this morning’s Episcopal Ordinations. This is the first ordination of bishops by Benedict XVI.
The celebration took place on the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. In his moving homily the pope recalled that in the early Church – and in Revelations – bishops are referred to as “angels”. Just as angels, explained the pope, bishops must lead humanity to God; they must knock on the door to their hearts to announce Christ; they must heal the wounds of relations between man and woman and save them from sin with reconciliation and forgiveness.
Throughout his entire discourse the pontiff referred to this similitude, starting with the names of the three Archangels, which contains the suffix “El”, which in Hebrew is the name of God. “God – said the pope – is written in their names, in their very nature…. they are His messengers. They bring God to mankind, they reveal the heavens and thus, they reveal earth….. the Angels speak to man about what constitutes his true being, what is often is often covered or buried in his life. They call man to himself, touching him on God’s behalf”. And he added: “In this way even we humans must become angels for one another – angels who lead us from the wrong path and guide us once again towards God…..A bishop must be a man of prayer, who intercedes on behalf of mankind with God”.
Benedict XVI then went on to highlight the characteristics of the three Archangels of the feast (the only ones named in the Bible), illustrating other aspects of the Bishop’s role.
Michael (“Who is as God?”) “defends the cause of the one God against the dragon’s presumption, the “ancient serpent” as his called by John. It is the serpent’s continuous attempts to make men believe that God must disappear, in order for making to obtain greatness; that God stands in the way of our freedom and so we must be rid of Him”.
In reality, explains the pontiff, “he who puts God aside, does not make mankind great, rather he denies mankind his dignity. And thus, man becomes an unsuccessful product of evolution”.
This is why, adds the pope; “it is the Bishop’s duty, as a man of God, to make space in the world for God against those who would negate Him and in doing so defend the greatness of man”. And again: “Faith in God defends man from all of his weaknesses and inadequacies: God’s radiance shines on every individual”.
Gabriel (“Man of God”) is the archangel who announces the Good News to Mary. He said the pope “is the messenger of the incarnation of God. He knocks on Mary’s door …… repeatedly God knocks on the human heart ….. on the world’s door and on the door to the heart of every individual. He knocks waiting to enter”. And turning to the candidates the pope added: “Dear friends, it is your duty to knock on the man’s hearts in Christ’s name. By entering in union with Christ, you will be able to take on Gabriel’s role: bringing Christ’s call to men”.
Raphael (“God heals”) is the archangel healer, protagonist of the Book of Tobias. The pope recalls that Raphael heals the relationship between Tobias and Sarah, marked by the curse of death: “he heals the wounded union between man and woman. He heals their love. He crushes the demons which tine and time again attempt to destroy their love. He purifies the atmosphere between the two and gifts them the ability to welcome and accept one another always”. “In the New Testament – recalls the pontiff – the order of marriage, established in creation and threatened in a multifaceted way by sin, is healed by the fact that Christ gathers it into his redeeming love. He makes marriage a sacrament: His love, which takes on the cross for us, is the saving strength, which in the midst of confusion, gifts us the ability to be reconciled, purifies the atmosphere and heals all wounds”. The bishop (and indeed every priest) “is entrusted with the duty of guiding men towards the reconciling power of Christ’s love. He must be the “healing angel” who helps them to anchor their love to the sacrament and live their love with renewed commitment drawn from the sacrament”.
“The book of Tobias – added the pope – speaks of the healing of blind eyes. We all know that today we are threatened with blindness to God…… healing this blinded through the message of the faith and witness of love, is Raphael’s service which is entrusted each and every day to priests and in a particular way to bishops. Thus we are spontaneously led to think of the sacrament of reconciliation and penitence, which in the deepest meaning of the word, is a healing sacrament. The true wound of the soul, in fact is sin. And only is a forgiveness in virtue of the power of God, in virtue of the power of Christ’s love exists, can we be healed, can we be redeemed”.