Today our Church celebrates the feast of three Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The interesting thing about them is that they have names and are well-known. Now, names are used today to help distinguish between individuals. In Biblical times, however, names were used to indicate something about the individual. (The use of last names in modern times is reminiscent of this, as in the first person to use Taylor or Carpenter (signifying their occupation), Johnson (John's son), or Ireland (guess where he was from) as a last name.
In the cases of these three archangels, their names are very important indicators. Michael means "Who is like God?"; Gabriel "God's strength" and Raphael "God's remedy". Each one gives us an important insight. For Michael, his name indicates the uniqueness of God, and the impossibility of us to be God. Even though we are sometimes tempted to think we could do a better job of things ("if only I was God for just 5 minutes, I would straighten things out"), even popular culture seems to recognize how impossible this is (watch Bruce Almighty for a humorous example of this). Gabriel's name reminds us that our strength comes from God, since on our own we can really accomplish nothing. And Raphael's name helps us realize that we should turn to God when it seems as if there is no solution to our problems and no way to turn a bad situation around.
One of the really important points to think about with each of these three names is that they do not tell us anything at all about the messenger - the angel, but rather about the one who sends them - God. Their names reveal something about God, and humans benefit from this.
In reflecting on this, I think it is good for us to ponder what we reveal about God, not by our name but by our actions and words. Since the use of nicknames is common, and sometimes relate to some characteristic about the person (think "Reds", "Smokey", "Slim"), maybe we should think about what nickname people might use for us if we challenged them. If you were to ask a friend to come up with a nickname for you that reflects what they learn about God from you, would they be able to do it? And what would it be? Would you be Mrs. Affirming? Mr. Loving? Ms. Constant? Master Forgiving? Or would it be more likely that your nickname would reflect another reality? Old Man Cynical. Mrs. Complainer. The User.
Today we have three examples of beings that reflect God's presence in their very names. what do you reflect by your words and actions? Let's try and make sure we show others the presence of God, just as this Angel Triple-Header does!