Coming Of An Angel
July often brings a visual and an aural non-sequitur in the presentation of Christmas movies on television and on some radio stations being graced with Christmas carols. I can't say whether or not it is designed to chase the heat and humidity away or simply to shake up an unsuspecting public. In like manner, I thought that, in this article, I would share a Christmas theme with you.
This is a story of a parishioner of Our Lady of Malibu Parish in Malibu, California as written in an article by John Feister in St. Anthony Messenger magazine. For nine seasons, Roma Downey played the role of Monica – an angel – on the fabulously popular show Touched by an Angel. She related a special Christmas time event in her life and that of a family who desperately needed an angel: "Early in her years as Monica, Roma, wearing a Santa Claus hat, was going from room to room in a hospital, visiting sick children, handing out ornaments, spreading cheer. A door opened and a family started exiting the room. On the bed lay their dead child. 'The mother saw me immediately and said, Monica! And she threw her arms around me. I prayed quietly to know what to say to her. I couldn't think of anything. I held her and tried to be of comfort. She said again, Monica. 'Roma resisted the urge to try to explain that she was not Monica the angel, that it was only a role. But she remained, holding the woman. The woman said, 'I prayed that God would send an angel for my baby, and here you are.' Roma wanted to correct the woman but felt compelled to say nothing. I just held her. And so she gathered up her family, and they thanked me – I had done nothing, you understand – and they left. Talking things over with Della [Reese], she was counseled: I think that you should be so glad that God told you to say nothing. She didn't need an actress, Roma, she needed an angel."
Angel derives from the Greek word for messenger. Throughout the pages and the ages of Scripture, angels have fulfilled the role of heavenly messengers of God to his creation. As long as we are on a Christmas theme, the archangel Gabriel plays a prominent role in announcing to Mary that she was about to become the human instrument initiating God's plan of salvation. I think it safe to say that none of us expects the appearance of the archangel Gabriel in our lives anytime soon. But we might not have recognized the appearance of angels or, at least, not identified them as such. Except for instances of divine intervention, the presence of God, moving and acting among us, comes from the openness of individuals of faith to letting the Holy Spirit operate. Choosing to allow "room for God" influencing and guiding us in the experience of living every day makes God present in our world. We are familiar with the statement, "You're an angel." And we all know what is meant by those words: someone has been an instrument in saving someone else from a troubling or a potentially dangerous situation. A human being has manifested angelic qualities in coming to the rescue. The old Baltimore Catechism had a very soothing graphic about Guardian Angels in which two little children at a crosswalk of a busy street are being overseen by an adult sized angel. That image remains and conveys the message of care and love beautifully. We would be well served in considering and giving thanks for all of the "angles" who have appeared throughout our lives and have guided and cautioned us.
"The universe is under the control of a loving purpose, and that in the struggle for righteousness man has cosmic companionship (angels). Behind the harsh appearance of the world there is a benign power.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is a tendency in us to be profoundly thankful for being snatched from the jaws of disaster and just as profoundly forgetful as life returns to normal. If we are thoughtful, meditating on the effects of Christ-like people in our lives should produce similar results in us. The dependence on goodness taking the shape of human forms and of human actions is most underappreciated in life. Kahil Gibran once spoke of work as 'love made visible." The work of God's messenger service is not relegated merely to the angelic hosts, but most acutely on the human population. Making God's love visible is a task we share with the angels, or perhaps, a task we accomplish because of them.
Roma Downey counts the Prayer of Saint Francis as her favorite. In that prayer we join St. Francis in asking that God make of us an instrument of his Will in all ways that manifest the righteousness of God to the world. On that day in that hospital, she truly was an angel fulfilling the need of a child of God in sorrow. You just don't know when an angel will appear to help you in need or when you may be an angel for someone else. Thank God that we are able to be "touched by an angel" and that we are able to do the same in the life of others. Merry Christmas! It is only six months away.