Monday, 1 November 2010

Entertaining angels
without knowing it
“Peter started knocking at the front entrance of the house and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. But as soon as she recognized Peter's voice she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed to everyone there, "Peter is at the door!" "No, he can’t be" they told her. When she kept insisting that it was him, they said, "It must be his angel."
Acts 12: 13-15

It was early on Monday morning when Teresa bumped into Jaime on her way to the market. He looked out of sorts and in hurry.
“How are Inez and the girls?” Teresa asked.
“They’re fine”, he replied without conviction in his voice. His unusual aloofness made Teresa feel uneasy and she sensed that something wasn’t quite right.
“I’ll pop in this evening.”
“Ok”, he replied, and left without making eye contact or giving her the usual goodbye kiss.

That evening Teresa went to see her neighbours, as she promised. She rang the bell and the door was opened immediately by the girls. Their red, puffy eyes revealing they had been crying.
“Girl’s what’s happened?” Teresa asked, making her way into the flat.
“Dad had a car accident yesterday night”, they answered together.
“But that must be impossible I saw him … ”
“Teresa, dad died this morning in the hospital”, one of the girls managed to say before crying again

The three sisters were members of the Church Youth Group where I was one of the leaders; their parents were not churchgoers. On the day of the funeral they told me the story about their dad and Teresa, and then they asked me one of the most difficult questions anybody had asked me in my life:

Who was the person Teresa saw? Was it our dad? Was it his spirit?

I didn’t have an answer that day, and I still don’t today. I only remember that while I was talking with them that the passage I quoted above, from Acts, came to mind and I remember thinking perhaps Teresa did see an angel.

I have met many people with the most amazing stories about angels; some, a real challenge to our pragmatic way of thinking, some deeply moving and inspirational, some quite funny and others quite bizarre. Long ago I made a decision to never pass judgement on these stories, but to accept them as they are: a gift that challenges our limited understanding about spiritual realities that can enrich our lives or at least bring a smile to our faces.

I like the fact that the scripture never went into great details trying to explain what angels are but I like that in quite a provocative way it insinuates their presence and exhorts us to be aware.“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

Whether they are strangers or celestial beings, or both; it doesn’t matter. Let’s welcome them as they come - with wings or without, in the appearance of the homeless or a refugee, the elderly or a child. Whatever their appearance, lets offer them the best of our hospitality

I hope we will be more sensitive and aware of the presence of ‘Angels’ in our secular and materialistic society, especially as people seek to address their spiritual needs. If we dismiss them, we may be missing a great opportunity for conversation with those spiritual seekers.

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