We have reached the end of the readings from the Book of Tobit that are contained in the Lectionary for Daily Mass, but we will not hear the last chapter of the story which helps us date the story and tells us of some future events. Today we listen as Raphael offers advice to Tobit and Tobiah, advice that lends a flavor of the wisdom literature to this short history. We also hear Raphael disclose who he is to the two main characters of this book. Raphael is one of the seven archangels “who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.” In other words, they discharge the tasks that are assigned to them by God. Two of the other archangels also appear by name in the Scriptures – Gabriel and Michael. The names of the other four are passed on to us through the tradition of our faith in the Books of Enoch and of Esdras which do not appear in the canon of our Scriptures.
Archangels appear in almost every religion known in our world. They are the personification of the many attributes that we attribute to our loving God. Through them and the traditions surrounding them, we learn of God’s healing power, we hear God’s messages, and we are protected from the evil one. The other four angels are said to be personifications of other aspects of God’s care for us, such as Jophiel, the archangel who personifies God’s beauty, Ariel or Uriel who preserves the life of animals and nature, Azrael, who accompanies Sister Death, and Chamuel, who preserves peace in our relationships.
This tradition helps us to grasp the totality of God’s care for the created world. Just as St. Francis saw his own relationship with all of creation, the archangels help to communicate that message as well. At this time in our history when care for our environment has become so prominent an issue, the Archangel Uriel might be considered a special patron of our effort.
Our responsorial psalm today also comes from the Book of Tobit. It is the canticle that Tobit sings when Raphael ascends from their sight. It reminds us of how much God has done for us in caring for us personally as well as caring for the world in which we live.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator