Before I begin, I ask that you all join me in praying for those who lost their lives yesterday in the terror attacks in Paris:
In your hands, O Lord,
we humbly entrust our brothers and sisters.
In this life you embraced them with your tender love;
deliver them now from every evil
and bid them eternal rest.
The old order has passed away:
welcome them into paradise,
where there will be no sorrow, no weeping or pain,
but fullness of peace and joy
with your Son and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.
Last week, we studied the end of Acts Chapter 4 through Chapter 5. It covered the selfless and not so selfless giving of the early Christian community and the continuing civil disobedience of the apostles. Here you have a community which has quickly become self sufficient, carrying for those in any need. It was interesting to me that the Sanhedrin didn’t see how the growing sect of Christians must have been relieving some of the existing burden those same needy people placed on them. Instead, they became defensive, not wanting to see themselves as they were. They needed to save face for Rome in order to keep their position in society. Despite the fear and jealousy of the Sanhedrin, God has big plans in mind for his apostles. It is none of God’s concern that the apostles were jailed. He simply sent one of His angels to release them and bid them to continue spreading the Good News. Throughout this discussion, Jeff Cavins talked about sacramentals and how we are not alone here on this journey.
Sacramentals, such as rosaries, holy cards, medals, and crucifixes, are things that many Protestants will point to when speaking out against Catholics. They see them as superstitious, but they are truly reminders of who God is and the faith that we hold dear. They are not unique to us today. There are stories in the Gospels and now in Acts where people sought only to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment or to stand in the shadow of the apostles for healing. It makes sense to me that I’ve always been drawn to them, even when I was farthest from God. Even then, God used them to keep a connection to me. Isn’t it amazing all the ways God tries to draw us near?
At some point or another, every one feels alone in this world. Even as Christians who have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit fall victim to it. Footprints in the Sand is a story I’ve been familiar with from a very early age. We need reminders that God hasn’t sent us out on this mission alone. Angels, like the one who freed the apostles from prison, are still with us today, clearing barriers we didn’t even know were in our way. Jeff shared Hebrews 12:3, which says:
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
This reminded me of an experience I had with members of St. Mary Magdalen in Kentwood, Michigan, my childhood parish. We sent a group to Denver for World Youth Day in 1993. One of the youth, Andi, was also selected to attend a special Papal Mass. Our contact and transportation to the Mass was a distracted priest. I’m not sure how we became connected to him. We didn’t know this until we arrived and were turned away from the church that this priest confused the arrival time with the time the Mass began. There were two of us chaperons who came with the Andi and we were all devastated that she missed out on this opportunity. The three of us sobbing drew the attention of media, but we refused to talk to them because we didn’t want there to be any negative publicity as a result. After we calmed down, we walked up to the Secret Service and tried to get the youth into the Mass. We got nothing but firm shakes of the head. As we walked away, a nondescript middle age woman walked up to us and asked us what was wrong. She asked nothing different than the press did earlier, but we opened up to her and told her what had happened. After listening to us, she walked up to the same Secret Service, spoke to them, and moments later Andi was escorted in the church. After the Mass, we learned that she was seated just as the Gospel was being read and she was there for (now Saint) Pope John Paul II’s homily. What a huge blessing! When we turned around to thank the woman, she was no where to be seen. Whether that average woman was an angel or not, I won’t know for certain in this lifetime. Regardless, she worked a wonder and miracle for us that morning. I need to keep those experiences closer to my heart.
Now I have some questions for you:
- Do you have a favorite sacramental? How does it make a difference in your life and to your faith?
- Have you ever had an experience that made you wonder if you’d entertained an angel? I’d love to hear about it.