Angels and Opportunities
I assume that I am among the hundreds of bloggers who have New Year’s resolutions for their writing. For my part, I am going to attempt to no longer complain about the difficulty of writing with any consistency and instead I’m just going to try doing it. In an effort to encourage some accountability on the part of those reading, I’ll even be specific about my intentions: I am going to write on Thursdays, at least for the next several months, as I have no classes on Thursdays. This means a post should be up by the weekend. However, in order to also make this a real possibility for me, I am giving up my preference for writing 2000-word essays and instead focusing on shorter, more succinct pieces, at least until I develop some sort of a habit. Let’s see what happens.
The New Year is normally a time of optimism about new possibilities, and I have certainly experienced (and personally felt) some of that optimism. However, I have also seen some shades of cynicism about the future in greater degree than normal for only a couple days into January. For some, there just seems to be “too much,” defined by any number of standards: political incivility, the “culture wars,” the crises in the Church, personal challenges, etc.
A few things come to mind when reflecting on this. First, this is the way of the world. This is the legacy of original sin. And this is the way things have always been. Are times worse now than they have been before? In some ways, sure. But the very end of the world has been upon us since the Incarnation, a theme prominent in Advent and still present in this season of Christmas.
Second, “the times are never so bad that a good person can’t live in them.” This paraphrase of St. Thomas More reminds us that we always have an individual responsibility to face up to the crises of the moment. We can complain (and we all do), but complaint has to give way to prayer and action.
A third point is that we cannot address the crises of our times alone. We always do this as Church, as the Mystical Body of the one who took flesh to show us how to live and how to love. We work with and among all those who share the discomfort brought about by these end times.
In addition to the people we live and love and pray and worship with, we are also joined by an immense host. Beyond the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant, we work alongside the legions of beings whose very existence is ordered toward furthering the redemption of creation: the angels.
I have been very thankful for the Church’s more explicit acknowledgment of this truth in these last few months. Dioceses across the country – including here in Worcester – have returned to the practice of reciting the prayer of St. Michael as a community at the end of Mass. We can never forget that the whole of our natural lives is lived alongside a much deeper supernatural reality – a conflict between truth and lies, unity and division, dignity and degradation, love and hate.
The profound disagreements and discord of our times have their origin in something far more fundamental than differing opinions; ultimately, this is a conflict about the very way we understand reality. If we get this wrong, we can only be victims. So at the beginning of this new year, while we’re making all sorts of resolutions about being better people and holding on to all sorts of hopes for the future of our Church and our country, let’s also pray for a more lively awareness of the presence of the angels (and the demons) around us.
St Michael the Archangel, pray for us!