When I was a child, I was taught that each of us, when we are born, are assigned a guardian angel who was to watch over and protect us. Perhaps we recall the iconic picture by Lindbergh Heilige Schutzengel of a tall, caring angel shepherding two small children across a rickety bridge. That picture galvanized in my child’s imagination the job description for angels: to keep me out of trouble. (My mother would suggest from time to time that I should have been assigned two or three.) In today’s first reading from Genesis, Abraham immediately recognizes that the three strangers near his tent are angels sent from God. He immediately follows the customs of the day, offering great hospitality to these visitors. Having eaten, they do what they were sent to do: give Abraham a message from God, that his barren wife Sarah is to have a child. (That is the very definition of the word angel: messenger from God.)
When I was younger I would walk past mirrors, whipping my head about, hoping to catch a glimpse of my guardian angel. (The nuns told me to knock it off.) I wanted to see an angel, but I wasn’t looking in the right place. My friend Juliana told me the story of how, when she was a young woman and carpooling her teenaged sister and friend home from school, her brakes went out on the 405 freeway. This was in the days before cell phones and they were at a loss of what to do. She and the kids started to become mildly panicked with afternoon traffic zooming by and no help in sight. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tow truck appeared. The driver, a tall, bald, powerful man approached and began to talk to her, telling her that everything was going to be just fine. Juliana remembered that she felt so safe. She and the teens calmed down quickly. There were no markings on his truck. She asked if he belonged to AAA; he smiled and said no, but he would make it all right. He radioed for help and stayed with them until AAA arrived. Relieved to see the AAA tow truck, Juliana turned to thank the man…and he was gone.
“Vanished” was how she described it. I asked her how did she interpret all of that. “It was my guardian angel sent to protect me.” The message? “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” Today, let’s try to see what father Abraham and Juliana could see: angels all around us.