St. Gabriel the Archangel
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of September is dedicated to devotion to the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. Let us console the heart of our Blessed Mother through this devotion! This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the St. Gabriel the Archangel and the gift of human life. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“St. Gabriel the Archangel: God chose St. Gabriel to announce to the Most Blessed Virgin the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. St. Bernard says: A mong all the A ngels only Gabriel was found worthy to declare God’s plans to her and accept her ‘Fiat’. The Angel’s greeting is so simple and charged with meaning. ‘Hail Mary, full of Grace’ has become the most familiar and long-standing prayer of the Christian people. St. Gabriel is linked to the Messianic messages and his presence in Sacred Scripture points to the fullness of time. Earlier, he had been sent to Daniel, to presage the period of Christ’s birth, and to Zachary, to foretell the birth of John the Baptist.
Since the first centuries of Christianity, St. Gabriel has been honored in the Liturgy. In the ninth century his name appears in the list of saints for 24 March, associated with the feast of the Annunciation. In 1921, Benedict XV declared St. Gabriel’s a feast for the universal church.
Currently, the celebration occurs together with the feast of the Archangels Michael and Raphael on September 29. St. Gabriel, the Power of God: The Archangel Gabriel appears to men to communicate the Divine Message. His name signifies both Servant of God and God has shown His Strength. He is always present as the bearer of good news. (cf. J. Dheilly, Biblical Dictionary, Barcelona 1070) Above all he is entrusted by the Creator to deliver the most joyful message of all - the Incarnation of the Son of God.
In the Old Testament the prophet Daniel has already announced the time for the coming of the Messiah. (cf. Dan. 8:15-26; 9:20-27) Gabriel is sent by God to make known to Mary the ineffable mystery to take place in her most pure womb. (Luke 1:26-38) Since it was a message of such transcendence, the Almighty chooses for the mission an Archangel, an Angel of the highest caliber. His name signifies ‘Strength of God’ because he would presage Christ, Who, despite His humble appearance, would inspire awe even in the Principalities and Powers. It is natural for such an exalted figure to foretell the coming of the Lord of hosts and the hero of battles. (Liturgy of the Hours, Second Reading: St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Gospels, 34, 8-9) The Archangel’s words are repeated countless times each day in everlasting praise of the Blessed Mother: Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou amongst women… as we often tell her in the intimacy of our prayer.
The Archangel foretells the child to be born. The value of each infant: St. Gabriel prefigur es the birth of St. John the Baptist too. He states: Do not be afraid, Zachary, for your petition has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son and you shall call his name John. (Luke 1:13) He also provides the surprised father with three more reasons for joy over the miraculous birth of the Precursor. God will grant him extraordinary grace and sanctity. He will be an instrument for the salvation of many souls. And his entire life will be consecrated to preparing the arrival of the awaited Messiah. (cf. Luke 1:14-17) We know Gabriel through his appearance when children are to be born. In a mysterious supernatural way he expedites the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. Previously in the case of John the Baptist, he tells Zachary before taking his leave: I am Gabriel who stand in the presence of God. I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. (Luke 1:19-20) News of a birth to come is always good tidings. We know that God directly intervenes in the creation of each person by bestowing an immortal soul. You shall have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth, the Archangel proclaims. (Luke 1:14) St. Ambrose aptly comments: Through this text parents are reminded of their duty to give thanks to God and the saints are invited to rejoice over the birth of their children. For the Lord has greatly blessed us with this awesome capability of propagating the species and our own families. (St. Ambrose, in Catena Aurea, V, p. 22; cf. Treatise on the Gospel of St. Luke, in loc.) The Holy Family of Nazareth and the family of Zachary and Elizabeth set off in a new direction from the moment Gabriel makes his message known. The Archangel can be a great intercessor before God for many married couples who desire children or who are already blessed with offspring.
Each baby who comes into the world has a Divine Purpose. Parents, therefore, collaborate with God as administrators of the sources of life. The gift of procreation is granted them in order that they may have many children who will know, love, and serve the Lord and reach eternal life. In the face of aggressive propaganda in favor of population control, mothers and fathers have more need than ever to be responsible before God in their parenthood. He frequently asks them to have a large family in keeping with personal and family circumstances.
St. John Paul II points out: To maintain a joyful family requires a great deal from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others and share their burdens (Gal. 6:2; Phil. 2:2). Each one must show concern, not only for his or her own life, but also for the lives of the other members of the family, for their needs, their hopes, their ideals. Decisions about the number of children and the sacrifices to be made for them must not be taken only with a view to adding to comfort and preserving a peaceful existence. Reflecting upon this matter before God, with the graces drawn from the Sacrament and guided by the teaching of the Church, parents will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters who could help them to grow in their humanity and to realize the beauty of every stage of life in all its variety. (St. John Paul II, Address, 7 October 1979)
As with other aspects of our fidelity to God the Lord rewards our generosity even in this life. We experience the fruit of knowing and striving to fulfill the Will of God. We must never forget that matrimony is a great and marvelous Divine path on earth. As in all human participation in Divine things on earth, there are concrete manifestations of correspondence to Grace which are generosity, dedication, and service. (cf. Conversations with Monsignor Escriva, 93)
Children are a reason for rejoicing: There is no greater delight in a family than the arrival of a new child. No gift of God is superior. This is the joyful doctrine of the Church we need to transmit to the whole world.
The words of the Archangel Gabriel are always fulfilled when a child is born: You shall have joy and gladness and many will rejoice at his birth. St. John Paul II frequently insisted on the idea that Christian civilization is a life-enhancing and life-valuing society: Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite. When God gives life, it is forever. Life is also precious because it is the expression and fruit of love… The great danger for family life in a society that values pleasure, comfort and independence lies in the fact that people may close their hearts and become selfish. (St. John Paul II, loc. cit.) They may prefer a little more material comfort to the joy of bringing more children into the world and educating them to be good citizens and sons and daughters of God. Each child that God grants is a wonderful blessing from Him. Do not fear having children. (cf. J. Escriva, The Forge, 691)
We ask the Archangel Gabriel, who informed the Blessed Virgin of the coming of Life itself into the world, to gain us the fortitude to do apostolate in favor of life, generosity and joy. St. John Paul II points out: When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked we shall affirm that no one has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a baby is described as a burden or looked upon only as a means of satisfying an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God with the right to a loving and united family. When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary and conditional arrangement that can easily be rescinded, we will stand up and affirm the indissolubility of the marriage bond. When the value of the family is threatened because of social and economic pressures, we will reaffirm that the family is necessary not only for the private good of every person, but also for the common good of every society, nation and state. When freedom is used to dominate the weak, to squander natural resources and energy, or to deny basic necessities to people, we will insist on the demands of justice and social love. When the sick, the aged or the dying are abandoned in loneliness, we will reiterate time and again that they are worthy of love, care and respect. (St. John Paul II, loc. cit.)
The Lord has wanted us to be apostles of all that is positive, good, andnoble in the world by drowning evil in an abundance of good. (Rom.12:21) Like St. Gabriel, may we too be bearers of good news for the family and the world from our place in society. Many are bent on spreading evil. May we put even more effort into radiating goodness, beginning with our own family. In national life there are two things which are really essential: the laws concerning marriage and the laws having to do with education. In these areas God’s children have to stand firm and fight with toughness and fairness for the sake of all mankind. (J. Escriva, op. cit., 104)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace to defend the defenseless, especially unborn children, the vulnerable and the elderly!
In Christ through Mary,