Who believes in angels, anyway?
Not a guy like Saint Peter. Not at first, anyway. That’s the distinct impression you get when you read the story (recounted in Acts 12: 7-11) of how the great saint got sprung from a nasty little prison in Jerusalem during Herod’s reign of terror against the early church.
The evangelist says that when an angel unlocked Peter’s chains and led him out past the guards, all the while he was ‘not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.’
Only after the heavenly creature leaves his side does the surreality of it all sink in. As we’re told: ‘Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me…”’
I thought about that story last night when I learned the details about a recent incident my dear mother experienced on a road just outside the town where she lives. She was heading north on a winding stretch when a distracted southbound driver veered into her lane.
Displaying reflexes more appropriate to a NASCAR driver than to an 86-year-old widow, Mom wheeled right, steering her Taurus off the road…into a grassy field…and then back onto the pavement – all in the blink of an eye – before then traveling on to arrive at my brother’s house (her original destination).
Mom was understandably shaken, but otherwise unharmed by the brush with disaster. But it was only later, when my brother and sister-in-law returned to inspect the scene, that the full nature of the miracle was revealed. They reported that concrete culverts bracketed either side of the grassy patch her car had traveled. What’s more, the tire tracks showed that the vehicle had passed – with improbable precision – between a utility pole and its guy-wire, a space barely wide enough to accommodate a sedan (let alone, one hurtling along at near-highway speed).
How did it all transpire, without doing more damage than elevating Mom’s heart rate considerably? It’s hard to explain based on physics, logic or fact. But Mom has an answer at the ready – along the lines of one I first remember her teaching me nearly six decades ago: “My guardian angel was on duty.”
Like St. Peter, there are times when I find such an explanation a little hard to swallow. It seems somewhat childish, perhaps a little childlike. And I thought about that – and my mother’s recent roadside miracle – when I meditated on the gospel reading the church gave us a few days ago, on the feast of the guardian angels.
Jesus tells his disciples, ‘Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven’ before going on to say, ‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.’
So who believes in angels, anyway?
Apparently, Jesus does. And Mom does, too.
Perhaps, upon further review, their testimony ought to be good enough for me.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.