Today we celebrate the feast of three archangels: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Michael appears in the apocalyptic visions of Daniel and John where he acts as the guardian angel of the Jewish believers. Gabriel is God’s messenger to Zechariah and Mary. Raphael comes in the fable of Tobias. Our word angel is Greek for messenger. The Bible saw Michael, Gabriel and Raphael as God’s messenger, and the stories about them come from passages in the Bible that are more like parables than historical narratives.
In today’s Gospel Jesus compared his future apostle Nathaniel to the Old Testament Jacob. Jacob, who was also known as Israel, was twice presented as a sly trickster. He tricked his father Isaac into thinking he was his brother Esau, and he tricked his father-in-law Laban into giving him most of his sheep. In saying Nathaniel would be less devious than Jacob Jesus seemed to be saying that his twelve apostles would be in some ways superior to the Old Testament’s patriarchs. Nathaniel like Jacob would see angels coming up and down from heaven.
Paul, in the Acts of h Apostles says, “God is not far from any of us for in him we live and move, and have our being.” We have all grown up with that understanding that God is everywhere. But Old Testament people did not know that. They thought God never left his heavenly home above the stars. Still they knew he was concerned for us. That had them thinking he must have messengers, angels, who kept him in touch with what was happening far below here.
Since New Testament times we see that God who is always with us has no need for messengers or angels for keeping in touch with us. We can think of them as being retired like old pastors.