Thursday September 29, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Archangels
Reading (Revelation 12:7-12ab) Gospel (St. John 1:47-51)
In the first reading today, we hear about this battle that takes place in heaven between Michael and the good angels and the dragon and the bad angels. It can be a little bit confusing because on the one hand we understand that this happened before material creation took place, yet at the same time we hear that the devil and his minions were cast down to the earth. We hear about the fact that the martyrs in heaven are glorifying God because the accuser of our brothers has been cast out. If that is the case, one would think that it almost sounds like the devil was cast out after all of the Christian martyrs (or at least some of them) had already gone to heaven, certainly after all of the earth was created and all of the things within. But that is not the case.
What happens when we are dealing with the angels is that, because of the way their minds work, they are able not only to see the decision they are going to make, but they are able to see at that moment all of the ramifications that follow from their decision. Unlike us, who can hardly even see what is right in front of us (and certainly we all know from how many decisions we have made throughout our lives and then we say, I never expected that that would have happened!), the angels knew exactly what would happen. They knew every single possible ramification of every decision that they would make.
So this was not something that Satan and his angels were confused about when they had to make their decision about whether or not they were going to choose God. They knew what would happen. They understood it and it was completely clear to them. Even though they made their decision before material creation, nonetheless, they understood fully well when they chose against God (what happened is that God showed to them the Incarnation of Christ and the glorious woman who was going to give birth to the Lord, so even though this was very far in the future at the time, the angels understood fully well) that what that would mean is they would lose their place in heaven, and that even though the earth probably was not yet created when they made their decision, they would be cast down and they would spend all of time troubling humanity.
This is why there can be this simultaneous picture of what is going on in heaven before material creation. There can also be the point of the birth of Our Lord and the martyrs in heaven calling out to God all at the same time because it took place outside of time. Therefore, what we would look at as far as time goes has absolutely no bearing on the things of heaven. Satan was able to see all the things that were going on at the moment he made his decision, all of the things that would happen throughout the history of humanity, and what eternity was going to hold for him, as well as for those who were obedient to God.
So when we see this reading with these different levels of time, we have to understand it in the angelic way, not in our human way. We say, How is it that this could be happening at three different times in history and yet they are all stuck together in one? It is because in eternity there is no time. Remember, in eternity, what God sees is everything as present. It does not matter if it was ten thousand years ago, now, or ten thousand years from now, God sees everything present. Eternity is a continual present. That is why all of these things can be at the same time.
We now can look back to what happened before time began and we can look forward as we cry out with the martyrs in heaven that the accuser of our brothers has been cast out, and even though we can see it in the past and in the future, there is a sense that we can also say it is happening right now. It is pretty clear, if you look around, that Satan and his whole cohort have been thrown down to earth and they are wreaking havoc. So all of us can still see it in that kind of a way. It is the reality of what is going on. It is a spiritual battle. It is a battle for souls, your soul individually and the souls of all other human persons. Therefore, the necessity for us to make sure we are praying, to make sure we are striving to live holy and virtuous lives so that he who has been cast down to the earth, he who is the accuser, will have nothing to accuse us of because with our sins forgiven and living holy lives we will then be able to stand before God, we will be able to rejoice with the saints in heaven and with all of the good angels who chose God, and we will be able to say that the accuser of our brothers has been cast out.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.