Check Yes or No

You don’t have to be a country music fan to love George Strait.  I’m trying to figure out my favorite Strait song but I love them all—including this one.  It’s a song about two small children, a boy and a girl.  The little girl slips the boy a note asking if he loves her and if he does, check yes or no.

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.  The angel Gabriel visited a young Mary, probably a girl of about thirteen years old, a little older than the children in the song mentioned above.  He calls out to her and asks her in a much more eloquent way, Mary, God has chosen you over every woman in the world.  Will you be the mother of His Son?  Check yes or no.

I’m sure Mary was startled.  She asked the angel how she could be pregnant when she’d never had sex with a man.  A logical question for a human, but Mary didn’t hesitate to check yes, in all CAPS.  Mary had free will, but my guess is God knew Mary would agree.

I don’t think this story is all about Mary.  It’s a lesson for us all.  Every day God asks us to check yes or no.  It may not be something monumental as giving birth to Our Lord, but it is He who is asking us to do something.  It may be small, like being kind to a friend or relative.  Call or visit someone who is ill.  Buy the homeless man or woman on the street a cup of coffee.  Help out a co-worker.

You’ve been away from the church for various reasons and He misses you as a father misses one of his children who have strayed.  I’m sorry, God.  I want you back in my life.  But Father, you can’t possibly want me.  I had an abortion when I was young.  I was wild and have lived an impure life.  I left my wife/husband for someone else.  I’m in prison.  I’ve cursed against You.

But He does want you.  He does love you.  He wants you back.

Remember what the father did when the prodigal son returned home?  Did he tell him to get out?  No, he dressed him in the finest clothes and hosted a huge party in his honor.  His child, who he once thought was gone to him forever, returned.

Tell God you’re sorry, but He already knows that.  And next time you hear that small voice in the quiet ask you, “Do you love Me?”

Check YES.

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Angels Among Us

This is the title to one of my favorite songs by Alabama.  It tells the story of a young boy who got lost coming from school one cold, winter day.  An older “man” guided him back home.  The only problem was his mother couldn’t see the man—only the boy could see him.  We’ve all had instances of complete strangers providing comfort during an hour of need.  They seem to come out of nowhere and know exactly what to say and do.  We could very easily blow it off as a goodwill gesture, but if you are in tune with God you recognize it to be so much more than that.

Most people are used to images of angels as beautiful, feminine, flowing, graceful creatures that invoke calm and tranquility and they always have wings and a halo.  There are few descriptions of angels in the Bible and none of them resemble that.  We do know angels were around when God created the world and they cannot die.  Many times they were sent as guides and they usually disguised themselves to look like a local.  They are fast and appear to fly or appear out of nowhere, but there is no mention of wings, halos, or flowing garments.  Others were messengers who ushered in a time of great change.  Still others were fierce warriors.  When you have a minute take a look at the likeness of St. Michael.  He’s always depicted in battle against Satan.  In Daniel 10:13, Daniel is told by an angel that he (the angel) was detained from visiting Daniel 21 days because he was doing battle with the prince of the Persian kingdom.  He had to call in Michael for assistance.  In the Bible, Michael is described as an archangel and “one of the chief princes.”  In fact, archangel comes from the Greek “archangelos” meaning chief angel.  So in the army of God, Michael is probably a five-star general, ranked highest and in charge of other angels.  Hardly feminine and wearing flowing garments.

However, there is no question in times of trouble angels are sent to minister to us or keep us safe.  There have been several films and television shows based on this premise.  My favorite, The Bishop’s Wife, portrays Cary Grant as the perfect angel, Dudley, who answers the prayer of a bishop.  Other favorites are Highway to Heaven and Touched By An Angel.  I admit I faithfully watched both shows.  Roma Downey and Michael Landon both looked exactly like the angels from my childhood imagination.  Both had sidekicks.  Della Reese was an “older” and wiser, rough around the edges, seen it all, angel supervisor to Roma Downey, while Michael Landon had a human partner in Victor French.  Landon took his orders from “the Boss”.  Even the Angel of Death was depicted as a kind, comical, young man.  However, in the NBC series, Constantine, we find a more rugged angel in Manny.  However, no matter how dark Manny seems, he still has wings!  But enough of Hollywood angels.

What about real-life encounters?  We’ve all heard accounts of people in a near death situation who were saved by a strange being—and in a few cases even by an “angelic” animal.  One of which was witnessed by several people in a busy hospital emergency room.  A man, who was being treated for a heart attack, had a mysterious canine visitor in the ER.  Patients, nurses, and doctors all saw the dog enter the ER and go straight to the man’s room.  Once the man was stabilized the dog calmly walked out of the hospital.  After hearing the description of the dog a family member recognized it as the man’s deceased pet.  The odd angle is when hospital staff played back the tape of the ER that evening, there were no images of the dog.  Google real life angel experiences and you’ll find a plethora of books, blogs, and angel stories from around the world.

When my Dad passed away in the hospital after a long illness my sister and I were inconsolable.  A young African-American woman approached us out of nowhere, hugged us, and led us in prayer.  She stayed with us, holding our hands and consoling us like a best friend until my husband arrived.  We were convinced she was a hospital chaplain.  I told my husband about her but when we turned around she was gone.  The nurses didn’t know who we were talking about.  We never saw her again.  A friendly stranger or an angel sent down to help us?

One of the most profound experiences happened to my youngest daughter and her friend.  Both girls had attended Mass with us one Saturday evening a couple of years ago.  The prayer to St. Michael was recited after Mass.  My daughter’s friend, a Muslim, had never been in a Catholic Church so she had several questions for our pastor.  They then left us and drove off.  Later that night, my daughter phoned us that she and her friend had been in a car accident.  The car was totaled but they were both OK.  My husband went to the scene and reported back to me that he was amazed that both girls had survived the crash let alone escape unscathed.  We felt very blessed.

The next day our insurance company called.  I heard my husband arguing on the phone.  The insurance agent was asking for the information on the young man who was a backseat passenger in my daughter’s car.  My husband stated there was no man in the car, only her girlfriend who was in the front passenger seat.  The insurance man stated that the policewoman on the scene stated clearly in her report that she spoke to a man who was in the backseat of my daughter’s car, and he gave her his name, Michael.

I’m convinced St. Michael was with my daughter that night.  How else could she have steered a 3-wheeled car into ongoing traffic after hitting a concrete wall with an airbag in her face obstructing her view to the safety of a side street?  How did she and her friend escape injury?  My atheist or skeptical friends would call that lucky.  The policewoman was merely mistaken.

I’ve had few acquaintances look at me sideways when I tell that story, but most people gasp and confess to having goose bumps.  There is no question in their eyes.  All they ask for is more information.  What did Michael look like? Is the most common question.  Unfortunately I have no additional information to share.  I never met the policewoman to ask her what Michael looked like.  I’m sure he didn’t possess wings or a halo or the entire CPD would know.  As true believers we don’t need to see an angel or have them reveal themselves to us.  We just know when we’ve encountered one.

As the song says, they wear diverse faces, show up in odd places and grace us with mercy in our time of need to guide us with love.  Yes, I believe there are angels among us and even if nobody else can see them we know they are there.