Today we celebrate the Feast of the Archangels – St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. In my last posting I wrote about St. Gabriel, whose name means: “God is my strength.” Today, I’d like to consider briefly the Archangel Michael. For the past several years, according to the express wishes of Bishop Caggiano, we pray the Prayer to St. Michael at the end of every celebration of the Mass. This was a restoration of the long-standing practice that goes back to the time of Pope Leo XXIII in the late 19th Century, but which fell into disuse over the past fifty years. Pope Leo composed this prayer after experiencing a harrowing vision of evil in its purest form. Shaken by what he saw, he set out to foster devotion to St. Michael the Archangel, the being that Sacred Scripture describes as the leader of the angelic armies of God, under whose leadership the rebellious angels led by Satan were cast out of Heaven (Revelation 12:7-10).
The rebellion of Satan was rooted in his desire to be God. His own status as creature is, to him, an intolerable humiliation. So he chooses to hate his Creator and everything that God loves – especially us. The devil is a master seducer, who delights in accusing those who succumb to his deceptions. Because he is much more powerful than we are, we do well to turn to St. Michael for assistance in the struggle against evil. The translation of St. Michael’s name is expressed as a question. It means: “Who is like God?” It is the response to the devil’s evil attempt to be like God by seizing divinity for himself.
The perverse desire of Satan to seize divinity for himself, in opposition to God, is something to which we are vulnerable as well. There is something in us that craves the perfect freedom that this dark spirit of rebellion promises – the ability to do what we want, be what we want, live how we want to live, with no one putting those desires in check or directing them to a good end, including and especially God. To strive to be like God apart from God is a rejection of the truth that we are creatures, that there is a reality that precedes us, into which we are born and according to which we ought to live. It is madness, and a recipe for perfect misery. For Sacred Scripture tells us that when God created all things, He created human beings in His own image and likeness, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is not an oppressive tyrant but a loving Father. God made us like Him, and we grow in our likeness to Him not in opposition to Him, but with His help. That is how we find happiness and flourish as God desires.
When we call upon St. Michael, we ask the question: “Who is like God?” And through his intercession, and under his powerful protection, we are reminded that we are like God – but only by the grace of God.