Monday, July 8, 2013

Angels may leave us, but God does not

In the New Testament, there are three very distinctive places where we are told that the angel of the Lord comes so significantly into the lives of the individuals concerned, does something so clear and specific, and changes the directions of their lives henceforth.

In the twelfth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we see how the angel of the Lord comes to Peter who was held in chains in the prison, and how he was so dramatically freed.  The other personality who encountered an angel was Mary at her annunciation, where the angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she was the chosen one to be the Mother of God.  Closely connected with this event was the appearance of the angels to the shepherds watching their flock in the fields by night to break the news of the birth of the Lord.  In these three episodes of the appearance of the divine messengers, what is very significant is that we are told that the angels left after they had done their appointed tasks. 

We don’t often say very much about the fact that the angels left them, do we?  That the angels made their appearance at the time and place that they did is much easier to ponder on.  But perhaps it is also important and even significant see the impact on the people involved what the departure of the angels had on their lives. 

 Firstly, I think we need to see the significance of how God doesn’t spoon-feed his people.  That the angel left Mary after the annunciation meant that she had to work out many things without what would be called very clear and specific instructions.  How does handle the bringing up of a divine child who decides to stay on in the temple unannounced at the age of twelve?  What does one do to ensure that one doesn’t make mistakes in the development of this child to adulthood?  Would that there be a clear road map for one to follow that is as clear as the angel Gabriel’s words at the annunciation.  Yet, we know that the angel did leave Mary, but God did not. 

If I got a dollar each time a recently baptized person (from the RCIA process) lamented that their baptism was so special but a year or two down the road, it just seems so flat and uninteresting, and so challenging, I would have with me a sizeable fortune.  Undoubtedly, unless one has the sensitivity of a tree bark, ceremony and ritual like that of a baptismal rite that is incorporated into the Easter Vigil Mass will touch and move a person to a greater or lesser degree.  Great as these moments are, like the angel at the annunciation, these moments will also ‘leave’ us.  It is at those crucial but also silent moments of our faith lives that require of us to exercise the tenacity of our faith.  These moments, trying though they may be, require us to look back in thanksgiving, and at the same time, to look to the future with our belief firmly held, and to also remember that God never intends to spoon-feed us at every step of life’s journey, simply because no spoon-fed person really matures.

Secondly, when we truly have had an encounter with the Lord (or his angel), we cannot but become co-messengers of the Good News for others who have yet to know this Good News.  Mary, Paul, the shepherds and undoubtedly, the Magi, became transmitters of the goodness of God.  They knew that in their hearts, this message was too good to be kept to themselves.  They had to make sure that others, through them, became the recipients of the Good News of salvation and the Good News of the Lord.  This was their mission.  That the angel left them meant for them that they now had to become the new harbingers of great joy to others whom they encountered.  Paul went to the missions, Mary visited her aged cousin Elizabeth, and the Magi went back by a different route.  Their lives were dramatically changed, and I daresay, challenged as well.  If angels stay with us all through our lives, we may never move our lives into action.

Thirdly, a true encounter with God that shapes and changes our lives has to lead us to become centered in prayer for the rest of our lives.  Prayer connects us to God, and it gives us the energy to fuel and sustain our belief in and love of God.  Mystics do not often get consolations in prayer, but yet, most true mystics remain faithful and committed to their prayer disciplines.  Many of these mystics only had to have one very real encounter in prayer, which gave them an unshakeable and unmistakable belief in the love of God.  What St John of the Cross considers the dark night of the soul is where there is an absence of consolation that plunges one deeper into the mystical pure love of God.  Some may use the term ‘dark night’ to mean a spiritual crisis in one’s journey toward a union with God, but it is something that even saintly folk like Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa of Calcutta encountered.  It was for them a purification of the senses that brought them to a purer love of God. 

Why am I writing about this strange topic?  It may have something to do with the fact that a second stem cell donor has been found for me, and I will be going into a ‘dark night’ as the transplant requires me to be in the hospital for anywhere between five to eight weeks, where I will not be able to step out of the room the entire time.  Medically, this is required to prevent me from getting any infections from the ‘outside’ world as my immunity will be greatly compromised as my bone marrow begin to accept the donor’s stem cells.  Spiritually, this is a time where I will be entering my own ‘dark night’ where it may feel as if the angel too has left. 

But it doesn’t at all mean that God has left.


  1. Congrats on the finding of a cell donor. We are as thrilled as you are. God bless you Father and your donor. A hundredfold will be returned.

    You have given us tremendous perspective on the right attitude at holy mass and this I am truly thankful. All your teachings are cherished and passed on. Like an angel that guides and give us the assurance when required.

    Take care. Always in prayers...Mathilda, OLSS.

  2. Fr Luke as you enter this time of "darkness", and as the "angel" of God seem to have left, though as you said God is still present. Remember that you are still surrounded by other angels that have been and will continue to pray for you.

    Something I have learn from being in a tunnel, sometimes it is not that we can't see the light and we are in total darkness. Rather, but fact is the overwhelming brightness "blinds" us to see how we are actually surrounded by Great light.


  3. Haha frLuke you won't be bored because the Trinity is your constant companion, Mother Mary too. Will be with you in prayer, daily.


  4. Thank you for this reflection, Fr Luke. I'm not an eloquent writer so I'll keep my comments short. It resonates deeply within me and gives me consolation for the difficult times in my life. are keeping you in our prayers.

  5. Hi Fr Luke
    Pls remember the song "Holy Darkness".
    Live this period as a comtemplative perhaps HE is preparing you for greater works

  6. God is with you, Fr Luke. It may seem long, 5-8 weeks but it will just pass and you will come out all well. See you up and running soon!!!

  7. Thank you Fr Luke for yet another beautifully thoughtful sharing -- I am always inspired by your reflections and find much to chew on.. How marvelously God uses you still even during this time -- I have much to learn from your fortitude, courage, humility and very deep faith. Have never written to you before but been carrying you in prayer since we knew about your illness…but this particular reflection of yours brought to mind something Richard Rohr wrote, which I thought I'd share too --about Jesus trusting His father enough to 'outstare the darkness'… and to 'outstare the void, to hold out for the resurrection of the forever-awaited “third day,” and not to try to manufacture His own. That is how God stretches and expands the soul, and makes it big enough to include God."… Faith, as he describes it, is a journey into darkness, into not-knowing… I am praying, and confident, that in that not-knowing, God will be present. Perhaps it will be another angel-encounter. Pray for us too, that we will learn from and be transformed even if in small ways by your love for our Lord.

    May God bless you and keep you -- many parishioners from SFX are praying for you too :)

  8. I too am in kind of a dark area in my life. But there are some people I think are my lights. And right now, you are one of them. I will pray for you Father Luke. You are well. And I trust in GOD that you will be well.

  9. Hi Father Luke,

    Your story and faith in God is truly inspiring. We will pray for your speedy recovery!

  10. My dearest friend, you know I will be with you in prayers...and no matter how difficult it may be, there is always light at the end of the tunnel... try a little harder and you will be reaching it soon. United in prayer.

  11. Ee family continue praying for you, God's will be done. Your courage and positive attitude inspires!

  12. “ is also important and even significant see the impact on the people involved what the departure of the angels had on their lives...........” and I do agree with this –

    .... because if the angels do not leave, one would be caught up in a time-warp and transfixed in a ‘spot’ or space, unable to move on. This state of affairs will not allow us to assert the use of our God-given free will and allow the grace of God to ‘enfold’ us and to carry us forth to do His bidding or His will – making use of the talents or gifts He has entrusted us with. Unlike the angels, we are human beings occupying space and time and one of the ways we can glorify and praise our Creator is through our loving act of obedience, conforming our will to His.......bringing to fulfilment what He plans for each one of us.

    In a way, it should re-assure us when the angels leave because it also shows up – the Heavenly Father’s trust and confidence in us. ......that we would and could make it on ‘’our own steam’’ the task He has entrusted us to carry out ( because – “ His grace will be sufficient for you....”) and so we are comforted because we know that His guiding spirit abides always with and in us......that’s why “the angels may leave us, but God does not......”
    Thank you for a very interesting sharing.

    God bless you, Fr.

  13. Luke, just found out today about your current condition, shocked and saddened. But after reading some posts, especially some of your beautifully written reflections, I am assured now that you are in good hands. I will let our classmates know about this and pray for you! Shalom my big brother!