Sunday, February 21, 2021

Addendum: angelic ministry is diaconal

Mark 1:12-15

Because of a passage in today's Gospel, deacons are sometimes associated with angels. The association stems from a phrase from today's Gospel reading: καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ- "and the angels ministered to him." The next-to-last, or the penultimate, word in that phrase, which transliterates as diakonein, is from the word for "deacon."

It seems that the angels "served" Jesus. Serving means they met him in his need. They rendered him aid and succor. They strengthened him as he wrestled with the temptations "Satan" threw his way.1 In the Synoptics (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), Jesus spends forty days in the desert being tempted by the "Satan" between his baptism by John in the Jordan and the beginning of his public ministry. It seems safe to say, that what the inspired authors hand-on is Jesus's preparation for his public ministry. It makes sense that Jesus confronts and wrestles with his self-doubts, his hesitations, the voice that says "God wants you to do what?"

The Angels Ministering to Christ, by Sir George Hayter, 1849 [Wikipedia]

It is important to note that these ministering (deaconing) angels did not do battle for Jesus. Rather, they strengthened him for the fight, the internal struggle prompted by self-doubt, which is the stock-in-trade of the satantas.

While Luke is the lone Synoptic author that does not mention angels ministering to Jesus in the desert, along with Matthew, this Gospel relates the Tempter, quoting scripture (Psalm 91:11-12), telling Jesus, as he urges him to hurl himself off the Temple, that God "will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and: ‘With their hands they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone'"(see Matthew 4:5-7 and Luke 4:9-12). Jesus responds also by quoting scripture: "You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test" (see Deuteronmy 6:16).

Diaconal ministry is an angelic ministry. Deacons should call on their Guardian Angels, on the great Archangels- Michael, Gabriel, Raphael- and on all heavenly thrones, principalities, dominions, virtues, cherubim, and seraphim to aid us in our service of assisting others whether this be in the diakonia of liturgy, word, or charity.

Angelic ministry is diaconal and, when done well, diaconal ministry is angelic.

1 A couple of people have asked why I put Satan in quotation marks in this sentence. My reason for doing so is that I am referring to this pericope in both Matthew and Mark. While Mark uses satana (i.e., Satan) in 1:13, in 4:1, the parallel verse, Matthew uses diabolou (i.e., the devil). Matthew does use satana in 4:10.

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