The Ministry of Angels

February 18, 2024
First Sunday of Lent (Year B)

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.  Mark 1:12–13

What an amazing event we reflect upon today. Jesus, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity humbled Himself in two ways in the passage quoted above. First, He allowed Himself to endure the temptations of satan. Second, He permitted His very own creation, the good angels, to minister to Him in His human form.

First of all, recall that satan is a fallen angel. He was created by God and was created good. But the Book of Revelation (12:4) indicates that one-third of the created angels were cast out of Heaven to roam the earth. These demons act under the direction of the highest fallen angel, satan. Thus, according to the passage above, it was satan himself who tempted Jesus in the desert. Additionally, Jesus permitted the good angels to minister to Him in His human nature. These acts reveal the perfection of the virtue of humility within the humanity of our Lord.

According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, angels were created for three primary reasons. The first is for the purpose of worship. Worship of God brings about communion with God and enables perfect love to flow back and forth from God to each angelic being. Second, angels enact the will of God in all things. This includes the implementation of the laws of nature and the imparting of the grace that Christ won on the Cross. Third, God uses angels as messengers. Scripture records various ways that the angels spoke to the prophets, to our Blessed Mother, to Saint Joseph and to others. Saint Thomas Aquinas also believed that each of us is given a particular guardian angel whose role is not only to protect us but also to communicate the will of God to us.

As God, Jesus was the Creator of all angelic beings with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As man, Jesus was the recipient of both the ministry of the good angels and the attacks of the fallen angels. By humbly subjecting Himself to the natural powers of these angelic creatures, Jesus was also teaching us that we must do the same.

One of the primary natural powers of both the good and bad angels is the power of influence and suggestive thought. Angelic beings have the ability to put before your imagination ideas meant to either influence you for the good (the good angels) or to deceive you and lead you into sin (the bad angels). These communications are real, and we should be aware of them. In his book, The Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola devotes much time and energy to the ministry of angels. He teaches how to distinguish the lies and deceptions of the fallen angels from the consoling direction communicated by the good angels. In many ways, our Gospel passage today, by which Jesus submitted Himself to the temptations and ministry of the angels, lends much support to the importance of trying to understand how these angelic creatures influence us. For more on this, see the book Probing the Depths: Ignatian Lessons and Meditations Arranged According to the Liturgical Year.

Reflect, today, upon the amazing truth that both angels and demons are constantly active in your life, seeking to influence you. As you ponder their spiritual role in your life, consider the various ways you can learn more about them. Speak to your guardian angel. Ask for the intercession of the highest of angels. Try to join them in their divine worship. Pray for their protection. Ask them to communicate to you the highest of truths from God. Seek to be attentive to these holy angels so that as you learn to discern their voices, you will be ready to follow the direction they give to you from God.

My Lord and Creator of All, You created the angelic order for the glorious purpose of love and worship. You also gave them the mission of enacting Your holy will and communicating to us on earth. Please help me to be more aware of the deceptions of the fallen angels and the direction of the good angels. Angels of God, pray for me, protect me and guide me into God’s perfect will. Jesus, I trust in You.