Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

To Be of Not To Be an Angel

Around this time of year, I receive a number of questions typically asking, “Does Uncle Clarence become an angel when he dies.” I’m not sure if it is because people have watched It’s a Wonderful Life one too many times or if they think that the angelic being is the top of the after-life corporate ladder. The answer of course is “No,” which means; as a number of parents have shared that I have just now crushed the hearts, dreams and spiritual potential of most of the second grade religious education class. As you might guess, the kids are great with the answer – it’s the parents that walk away dazed.

Mom or Dad always appear the following week – recovered from their daze, upset telling me that I am cruel and I need to update my theology (You know, Vatican II happened). So, in an effort to assist those well-meaning parents and grandparents – here is why we do not become angels.

We can no more become angels than a bird can drop its wings and become a fish. Just as the fish and the bird are two different species or kinds of animals, so may we apply the same logic to human beings and angelic beings. We are not only completely different from each other but,

Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. For each one of the works of the “six days” it is said: “And God saw that it was good.” “By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws.” Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things which would be in contempt of the Creator and would bring disastrous consequences for human beings and their environment. (CCC 339)

Angels too possess their own particular goodness and perfection. In the economy of salvation, angels serve a particular purpose within the Kingdom of God by serving the Messiah as His messengers to those who are called to salvation:

They belong to him still more because he has made them messengers of his saving plan: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation? (CCC 331)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church continues to teach us that angels have been created to assist the Blessed Trinity not only manage the universe but, in a particular way, assist those who are called to be the sons of God.[1]

Humanity by nature was created a “little less than the angels.”[2] From the very beginning:

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God (article 1); it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude (article 2).[3] From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.[4]

Most importantly,

Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.  (Gaudium et Spes 24)

Our Lord made us part of His family (1 John 3:1) and has destined us to participate in His glory. Now, I ask you, “Why would you ever want to be an angel?”

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