By Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR
For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”? Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”? And again, when he leads the first-born into the world, he says: “Let all the angels of God worship him.” (Heb 1:5-6)
We don’t tend to think about angels much in our materialistic age, but every now and then a question about angels arises to pique our curiosity. The other day I was listening to a call-in radio show on a religious station, and the caller said that he had heard a story about the fall of Lucifer which he found hard to believe. The caller asked if the archangel Lucifer fell because he was jealous of Jesus who was chosen to be the Messiah instead of him. It’s a totally erroneous idea, but it is part of the distortion of Christianity that sectarian groups have brought into our culture.
The answer to the man’s question, however, is simple: Jesus is the eternal God and is not in competition with Lucifer for anything. It was Jesus’ eternal vocation to be the Savior of mankind, and Lucifer never even had a shot at the top job. The Evil One is not jealous of Jesus so much as of the rest of us who can accept the salvation that Jesus offers. It was an offer that Lucifer rejected from the start, but we know that there were faithful angels who accepted that offer of eternal happiness and now worship Jesus as their King and their greatest joy.
Why, specifically, is Jesus the “Joy of Angels”? There are so many reasons but let’s start with Scripture. First of all, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that the angels “behold the face of God in heaven.” (Mt 18:10) We humans hope for that bliss at the end of our lives, but the angels already possess it. Tradition tells us that when the holy angels remained faithful, they entered into what we call the “Beatific Vision” and now live with eternal joy in God’s Presence. I think that if I were constantly “beholding the face of God” I would be totally joyful too. I can only hope that my moment of joy will come—after I do my time in Purgatory, of course.
Jesus is also the “Joy of Angels” because they get to work with Him in His grand plan of salvation. Imagine this: the greatest of all Heroes, the most supreme of all Commanders, the highest of all Leaders, and the bravest of all Warriors calls the angels into His service to dedicate themselves to the noblest of all causes—the salvation of souls. Except for their role in worshipping God, the angels exist for no other reason than to get man to heaven. The Book of Hebrews says rather sedately that the angels are “all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” (Heb 1:14) What a wonderful, joyful work that is for them! Maybe you have felt a similar joy and exhilaration when you embarked upon your vocational path and knew that God had chosen you for some great life’s work such as marriage, religious life, or even a meaningful career. Maybe you felt that joy when you first laid eyes on a newborn baby or helped a friend overcome some great difficulty in his life. You experienced joy as a natural emotion that comes from really doing God’s work and partaking in His greatest blessings. The angels experience that joy every moment of their lives as they see God’s plan taking place, however mysteriously, in the salvation of His children.
Finally, Jesus is the “Joy of the Angels” because they were the ones who ushered Him into heaven after His mission was accomplished on earth. We know only a few of the exclamations of joy and wonder that they left us at that magnificent event, but let me tell you, their joy must have known no bounds. Scripture imagines the angels crying out at that moment: “Sing to God, praise his name…. Rejoice before him whose name is the LORD.” (Ps 68:4) The rejoicing at the Ascension will be surpassed only by their rejoicing at the end of time when He will come back to put an
Why don’t we learn a lesson from the holy angels who find their greatest joy in Jesus? If the obligations of our faith are burdensome at times, let us trust that the deepest dimension of the Christian faith is the joy that knows no bounds, the joy that comes from living fully for God and working our hardest to get ourselves and others to heaven. When we finally get there, we will also experience the fullness of joy because we will finally behold the King “face to face,” just like the angels.
Jesus, “Joy of Angels” and men, open our hearts to the angelic joy which surpasses all understanding and to the love that You so lavishly pour out from your Most Sacred Heart. Send Your holy angels to assist us in this life and lead us safely to the life to come. Amen.
[Excerpted from: Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Jesus and Mary: In Praise of their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.: Huntington, Indiana, 2012.]