The Giving is the Sacrifice

Patronal Feast Homily

What a wonderful patron we have! Like all the angels, St Michael doesn’t focus on our sins, or the ways we divide up others, or how we so often lose control of our passions. And he doesn’t get distracted by all the noise—the outside clamor, the breathless media uproar, the social media racket, or the disquiet in our own head. None of this throws him off-balance. None of this creates a scintilla of anxiety. None of this sidetracks or confuses or frustrates St Michael or any of the holy angels.

That’s because the holy Archangel is single-minded. All that really matters is simultaneously worshiping God and serving us. And our patron’s ministry is protecting and defending us from the malice and snares of the devil. He’s focused on leading you safely into the life of the world to come. Nothing else matters, except your well-being, your relationship, your communion in God.

Serving Our Lord by serving us—that’s our patron’s mission. Sacrificing every ounce of “what’s-in-it-for-me.” And thinking not about his own strategy, his own tactics—but simply executing the will of God for the good of another: that’s what our holy patron is all about.

And we keep him busy. Because we are so prone to flip things around and inside out.

Think about it: we honestly believe that the most important thing about this Mass is what we do—our singing, our ability to hear, whether we stand or sit. And I admit, I get caught up in that as well, thinking that the words I’m speaking now must impact you because that’s what you’ll take away from today’s Mass.

In point of fact, the core of the Mass is not at all what we do, but what God gives us in His Son. And learning something or hearing we’re not so bad is not the point of the Mass. The Mass opens to us the kingdom of heaven. It helps us see Christ in His Body and Blood. It gives us the weapon of silence so that we can fight our passions by quieting our restless bodies and minds. Peace and quiet, silence and inner tranquility—that is our greatest weapon against Satan, our flesh, and the world’s clamoring.

For this reason, the heart of the Mass is not the homily, but the Canon of the Mass—that long prayer that I say quietly, so that you have at least each week to silently marvel and revere and consider in awesome fear that we can dare to approach the merciful Father, and receive into our soiled and stained temples Our Lord’s pure and immaculate Body and Blood.

And think about it: we honestly believe that our prayers are a show of support; and that praying, or worse yet refusing to pray for someone, actually affects, impresses, and nudges God, or the nation, or someone else in a particular direction.

In point of fact, Truth Himself tells us to pray, not so that we change God or to support others, but because we need to remember that we’re not in control; that everything depends on Our Father’s mercy. We pray to recall that Our Lord gifts us with everything—everything—we have. And we pray to keep in mind that the Lord’s will is not capricious or fickle; but that always, in every instance, even in the worst moments, the Lord is getting His way—in ways that we can’t even see are actually good and righteous.

And think about it: we honestly believe that we can judge who is deserving, or not deserving, of our smile, our kind words, our attention, our pennies, our help. As if what God has freely given to us, showered upon us, blessed us with—is ours to play god with.

In point of fact, we have all—everyone one of us—fallen short. “None is righteous, no, not one.” We are as vulnerable to rebel against love as we are prone to see and hold onto only our ideas of fairness and justice. So we judge and attack and belittle those who don’t share our view. But no one really understands or sees what another person is going through. God sees, the angels see—which is why the divine response to the world’s problems befuddles us. And so we judge God our Father instead of trusting that He’s already got it all worked out.

Instead of our faulty justice, we need to show sympathy. Instead of correction, we need to forgive. Instead of condemnation, we need more friendship. Friendship that stubbornly loves and helps and cares for the loved ones who push us away.

That’s what St Michael and the holy angels do. Even when we do and say and see and hear shameful things—things that make our Guardian Angel blush and weep—even in our most disgusting moments, St Michael the Archangel leads the fight for our souls. For even though we can’t see it, or don’t see it, or won’t see it—spiritual beings are fighting over you. Over your soul.

And so the angels and especially St Michael step in to show us what God’s love for us, what God’s love in us, what God’s love through us—what God’s love looks like

It looks like putting to death your ideas of justice, killing my thoughts of who’s deserving, and drowning our narratives and identity and carefully crafted truths.

Equally important, love of God looks like loving especially the person who is nastiest, praying especially for the politician we’re sure is the worst, and being merciful especially to the person whose values we hate.

Isn’t that Christ on the cross? It’s not just Jesus dying. It’s Him taking on all the hatred we’ve ever felt, all the prejudice we’ve ever denied practicing, all the abuse we’ve ever thrown at another, and all the jugdiness we’ve ever thought. Taking all that into Himself; enduring all our hatred; swallowing all our bitterness—all so that He might embrace us yet again; and not turn His back on us, but transform us by His undying love for us.

God in Christ by the cross works life through death, goodness through brutality, greatness through humility, love through hatred, empathy through prejudice. And His greatest desire is to do that not just through His Son, but also in and through you and me.

That’s what turn the other cheek looks like. That’s what St Paul’s doing when he urges the Romans to pray for Nero. And that’s what it looks like when disciples pick up Christ’s cross and follow Him: They turn the world upside down by loving hatred to death.

And that’s why St Michael and the holy angels fight. They fight because they see what we can really be. They fight because they believe that our Father did right by sending His Son to become vulnerable, weak, death-filled—like us, in order to transfigure us.

For the angels fight for the good of everyone. Not just the good people, or the people who worship the Holy Trinity. St Michael leads the holy angels for the good of everyone and everything that God has created. For all creation matters. And Jesus lays down His life on the cross for everyone and everything. You know the words: ‘God so loved the world (not just the good people, and not just the humans)—He loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.’

The giving is the sacrifice. The sacrifice of self, and especially the killing of your own will. St Michael sees this sacrifice by Jesus and leads the angels to imitate it. And so “they conquered Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, because they loved not their lives even unto death.”

So we have a great and wonderful holy patron. A leader who focuses on what matters most—the Lord and His mercy. A leader who shows us that our life is a daily sacrificing of our will and passions. And a leader who strengthens us both to be vulnerable children, and to aid and assist all, even the most repulsive, since we are, everyone of us and altogether, the people St Michael defends and truly wants to lead to the bosom of our heavenly Father; to whom with His Son, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, belongs all glory, honor, and worship: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.