But God also created all things invisible. What does that mean? Each of us has a spiritual soul. You cannot see it, yet it exists. We are made of body and soul, and our spiritual soul is invisible. God made the angels. We cannot see them either, but they are constantly around us. Each of us, we are taught, has at least one guardian angel (see Matthew 18:10). If you were to count the heads in the Church this morning you would have to multiply by at least two, because that is how many beings—human and angelic—are present here right now.
God created all of these, visible and invisible. St. Paul, in the Letter to the Colossians this morning, explains it this way:
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible.
St. Paul calls Him “the firstborn of all creation” and “the firstborn from the dead,” because He is the first one to rise from the dead, the first of many! It is in Christ, says St. Paul, that all things were created, visible and invisible.
St. Thomas Aquinas, often referred to as the “Angelic Doctor” for his teachings on the angels, along with many of the great teachers of the Catholic faith, speaks about what could be called a hierarchy of being. While it is true that all men and women are created equal, not all beings are equal! For instance, God is greater than all beings, whether visible or invisible. God has always existed, from all eternity. There never was a time that God did not exist. While everything and everyone came to be at some specific time, God simply is. Before all things came to be, God is.
Angels are like God in that they are spiritual and invisible, but there was a time that they did not exist. God created them, and they came into being. They are greater than us, because they are purely spiritual, and are not limited physically like we are.
Next, of course, is humanity. We are like the angels in our spiritual souls, but we also possess a body. In our corporality we are limited. An angel can move from here to California in a moment. If you and I want to do that, we have to take a airplane or a really long road trip! Jesus says that angels can always behold the face of His heavenly Father; we are not granted that amazing privilege here below.
The remarkable truth about our redemption in Christ, however, is that when God chose to save us and to open the gates to eternal life, He did not become an angel. God did not descend one level down the hierarchy of being (that itself would have been a tremendous act of divine humility). No, when God came to save us He descended two levels to become a man. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews expressed it, “But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering and death, so that by the grace of God he may taste death for every one” (Hebrews 2:9).
The breathtaking reality of our redemption is that Christ united Himself to our humanity, and then ascended into heaven, taking humanity with Him! In the resurrection, we ascend with Christ and are united with God even above the angels. This is the meaning of St. Paul’s bold assertion in 1 Corinthians 6:3: “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” What an amazing exchange, and it all takes place through the body of Jesus Christ! The early Church Father, Tertullian, explains, “Caro salutis est cardo.” The flesh, or body, is the hinge of salvation. God has thrown open the gates to heaven, and He has used the body of Jesus Christ to do it!
Back down to earth, this amazing truth about our redemption reminds us that everybody, and literally every body, has the same value and dignity of God. Every terminally ill patient being cared for by hospice has infinite value; every unborn child has the same dignity and value as Jesus Christ; every young person, every elderly person, every man and every woman, is as valuable as God’s own Son. The tragedy in our Gospel this weekend is that the priest and the Levite have failed to recognize that; or having recognized it, they failed to act on it.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan the priest and the Levite come upon this unfortunate victim of robbers, a person left half-dead on the side of the road. Not wanting to get involved and not willing to help him in his dire need, they both “passed by on the opposite side.” How different, the response of the Good Samaritan. Jesus says that he “was moved by compassion” when he saw that unfortunate man, and at length he helped him in practical and caring ways.