Commentary Dan 7:9-10,13-14 or Rev 12:7-12a; Ps 137; John 1:47-51
The Gospel reading from John is the scene in the beginning of the gospel where Jesus meets Nathanael, who has been introduced to him by Philip. Nathanael who had somewhat sneeringly asked if anything good could come from Nazareth must have been somewhat surprised to hear Jesus say to him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” (Of how many people can that be said – including ourselves?)
Puzzled, Nathanael asks Jesus: “How do you know me?” Rather enigmatically Jesus tells him that, before Philip called him, Jesus saw him under the fig tree. The fig tree was often seen as a symbol of messianic peace. They were words, then, of commendation. Nathanael, deeply impressed, tells Jesus: “You are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” This declaration is on a par with Peter’s confession and concludes the list of Jesus’ titles which are given in this first chapter of John.
And yet Jesus says he will see much more: “You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The allusion is clearly to the dream of Jacob who saw God’s angels-messengers going up and down on a ladder linking Heaven with Earth, God with his People. Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God is the bridge which links God with his People, he is like a ladder by which God comes to his People and his People go to God.
In a sense Jesus is the Archangel of archangels, the Ultimate Messenger of God’s Truth and Love. Through him God comes to us; through him we go to God.
There is a choice of two First Readings. The first is from the Book of Daniel and speaks of a vision that the prophet has of God on his Throne, which is described in graphic and apocalyptic language. Among other things we are told that “thousands upon thousands were ministering to him and myriads upon myriads attended him”. These are the angels who serve at God’s throne.
The second part of the reading is taken in the New Testament to refer to the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour King of Israel. He is said to be “like a son of man” coming on the clouds of heaven.
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.” An image that the Gospel will use to describe the return of the Risen Jesus at the end of time as he calls his people to himself (cf. Matthew 25)
The alternative First Reading is from the Book of Revelation and speaks of Michael defeating Satan and the powers of evil, which was mentioned above. With the defeat of Satan, “salvation and power have come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed (the Christ).”
These angels are symbols of God’s ever-loving relationship with us. It is a two-way communication. We listen to what God tells us and try to make it part of our lives. At the same time, we reach out to him in faith and trust and in a complete surrender of our being.