We have different ideas and images of what angels look like. We usually think of them as fantastical creatures, either peaceful looking cherubs or young, handsome men with wings, or young men in ancient armor. Actual angels, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, are souls without a body. They have as much knowledge and intuition as any other human being, but they can get past the processes of abstract thinking that we have to go through. Raphael is one of the seven archangels (the other two being Michael and Gabriel), “who stand and serve before the glory of the Lord.”
So you can imagine that when people actually see an angel in the Bible, they have every right to react with fear because the angel is the closest thing to seeing God that they’ll get to see in their lifetime. Thankfully, much like the angel Gabriel, Raphael tells Tobit and Tobias “Do not fear; peace be with you!” He tells them that he was sent to help fulfill God’s will, to give gratitude to God, and to write down what happened so that they will remember. Then, he ascends back into Heaven. Tobit and Tobias follow through on Raphael’s words because of all that they have experienced.
When I read this passage for the first time, I was reminded of two events in the life of Jesus: one was when an army of angels appeared to a group of lowly shepherds and the other was when angels appeared to the Apostles after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Whenever I think of the first Gospel passage, I think of my favorite part of A Charlie Brown Christmas, when Linus reminds Charlie Brown what Christmas is really about. Inspired by the Gospel, Charlie Brown tries to find the beauty in the little tree that he bought from the Christmas tree lot. His efforts to decorate the tree inspire his friends to help him and in the end, they all join together singing “Hark the Herald Angel Sings.”
In Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing, Fr. Dwight Longnecker comments on what he calls the practicality of the Ascension. Jesus had to go back to Heaven because he couldn’t remain on earth forever. Besides that, the Apostles couldn’t stay in a spiritual high forever, either. All too often, we get caught up in wanting to experience spiritual high than have a genuine, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
What these two Gospel passages have in common is that once people hear the Good News, they go out and apply what they learned, living out the Gospel instead of saying one thing and doing another. As Fr. Dwight Longnecker said “He allows us to share in his glories of victory and his return to heaven, but that is only to charge our batteries and inspire us to continue his work on earth.” This is why sometimes, the Mass closes out with “Go forth spreading the Gospel to the world.”
Let those words enter into your heart today, sisters in Christ. Go forth! Spread the good news!
Study Questions: Do you have an addiction to spiritual highs? How do you deal with spiritual dryness? Have you ever felt like an angel came into your life and helped you out? Send a hug to your guardian angel in your prayers today!