28 September 2008

Homily for St. Michael's

They thought the big thing was that they could boss the demons around in the Lord’s name. They could make Satan yield: “Back up and back off, Jack!” And back up and back off they did. The demons trembled at that name and fled before it – for the Lord always goes with his name. Where it is, there He is. Why do you think we begin the liturgy “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”? Where His name is, you’ll find Him and the Him you’ll find is one that NO demon wants to meet. They yowl and yammer in terror before Him.

Do you see then what idiots we are when we treat His name as a nothing? When we take it in vain? “Jesus Christ!” someone mutters under his breath in a moment of disappointment or disgust. The demons turn tail and run at the name, recognizing who is present in it, but we foolishly utter it as though He were not there in it. Do you know they tremble at that name? They know “that the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

If we can’t see who meets us “in the name of the Lord” they do. They know that the One who owns that name is no mere mortal. THAT flesh and blood belong to the Only-begotten Son of God through whom they were made, against whom they rebelled, and whom they still hate and fear. The name comes striding in and they turn tail and go running out.

Admit it, that’s pretty heady and nifty stuff - you agree with the disciples. And Jesus does not tell them its wrong to have all this joy at the power that is inside of His name. He rejoices with them when He says: “I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven! Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall hurt you.”

That is one huge promise. Nothing shall hurt them. Satan shall never be able to overcome them. This does not mean that they would not suffer – you know they did! You know you do. It means instead, that as they live in the name, they are safe from evil being able to damage them. They cannot be hurt by it, taken into it and swallowed up by it. For it is the name of the Crucified and He is the one whom no evil could conquer. His cross cries out: You can’t make me hate you! I love! I forgive! And thus He overcomes evil with good. The hatred and envy and evil of the world cannot own you then as you live in and through the name.

You remember Proverbs 18:10? If you don't, you should. That's one you want to keep in your spiritual arsenal: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous man runs into it and is safe.” No power of the enemy can touch the person who lives in that impregnable tower. It cannot be breached. It cannot be overcome. The name of the Lord is strong, secure, and certain, and it’s where our help is. “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

The only way we can be defeated is if Satan seduces us into leaving the name, the name into which we were baptized, the name in which our Catechism teaches us to begin and end each day, the name in which we gather week by week, and by which the holy absolution is placed upon us and the benediction given to us. The name in which we pray and by which we are assured of being heard. The name that alone can rout the enemy. The name of the Triune God, the holy, holy, holy. Live in it and you live in safety. Exit it and you’re open prey to the evil one.

But Jesus has more that He wants them to be joying in than just power over the demons. And so He says: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Joy to live inside of God’s name, but to live inside of the name of God is to realize the unspeakable, unfathomable joy that God knows you. By name. And not only knows you, but has written down YOUR name as belonging to Him. You are His.

In all your sin, in all your failure, in all the mess you’ve made of your life, you are His. He insisted on having you before you could move a hand to help or prevent Him. He knew you – the bright shining moments of your life, and the dark miserable secrets you hope no one will ever see. He knew you in it all. And He loved you.

Unthinkable! Who can get their mind around it? God loved you in His Son and in His Son wrote down your name in heaven, written in the spilled blood of the Eternal Son, the blood that proclaims you forgiven, loved, and His.

And when you are long turned to dust and ashes, you will not be forgotten. Not by the only One that ultimately matters. How could He ever forget you? Your name is written down in heaven in that precious blood. So rejoice!

And as if that all were not enough, there is the more that we celebrate today: St. Michael and All Angels. Today we rejoice that God turns to his servants, the holy angels and he says: “See these names I’ve written down here. They belong to me. You go and protect and serve them.”

And off they go, eager to do His bidding, ministering to the heirs of salvation. They know you both by the fact that God has written your name in heaven and by the fact that His name is on you. Oh, the water is long since dried and gone, but they still see the sign of the cross that once was placed upon your forehead and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by the Crucified. They see it and they know: Here’s the one I must tend to and protect. Here’s one that belongs to My Master in heaven.

And their job is not done until they bring your soul from your body into paradise. “Into paradise may the angels lead you” the Church sings. Or, in another version: “Lord, let at last thine angels come, to Abraham’s bosom bear me home that I may die unfearing.”

And there you will join with them in their songs of praise, and you and they will wait together for the joyful moment when your flesh will be raised, and when the demonic menace will be once and for all time banished, when the joyful feast begins that has no end.

Meanwhile, you’re rejoicing here and now in the name of God and in your name written in heaven and in the angels who keep watch over you. All God’s ideas and for all of which we send up glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, in whose name we live, and in whose name we die, and in whose name we shall live forever! Amen and Amen!

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