This is the first of three posts on the archangels in anticipation of their feast day on Saturday, September 29.
Have you ever read the book of Tobit? It’s a gem of a folklore-like story that is hidden between the Old Testament books of Nehemiah and Judith. It’s always been my favorite book in the Bible to sit down and read in its entirety, in part because of the key role of the Archangel Raphael.
Raphael is more than just some ethereal notion of an angel. He is:
An answer to a prayer: When Tobit and Sarah, two people in very different circumstances in need of healing, prayed to the Lord, the following is written “At that very time, the prayer of these two supplicants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both.” (Tobit 3:16-17)
A companion: Raphael did not just arrive and heal Tobit and Sarah instantaneously. He walked (literally) with Tobit’s son Tobiah and showed them all the healing mercy of God. This is such an important reminder that the Lord sends angels to accompany us throughout our trials. For this reason, the first prayer I learned, and the first one I pray with my infant son each night, is “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s Love commits me here, ever this day, be at my side, to light to guard, to rule to guide. Amen.”
The Patron Saint of Travelers: Of course, in the book of Tobit, Raphael actually travels with Tobiah, helping him to find properties to cure his father Tobit along the way. However, angels also guide our footsteps in our larger journey throughout life. There is a saying that “life is not always a miracle, but a journey.” In other words, our life will not always be guided by miraculous signs and acts, but also by the grace that comes through trials, through mistakes and even through suffering.
In honor of the feast of the Archangels on Saturday, perhaps you’ll join me in rereading the book of Tobit. It isn’t long, and the narrative so dramatically reminds us that the Lord answers our prayers and the angels are sent to help us along the way to heaven.