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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Comiskey

Scary Angels

‘Knowing the love that surpasses knowledge may well mean not knowing much else’ (Loretta Ross-Gotta).


God often overshadows the faithful with opportunities that either crush us or conceive Christ in us.  

 

Mary knew trouble when she saw it: an imposing messenger announces her favor, her ‘set apart’ status (Lk. 1:26-38). Trouble. God disciplines those He loves. Invoking love, Gabriel prepares her for a life of shame and marvel, sorrow and joy. She can bear God only through God.

 

So it is with each of us. How will we respond to scary angels who remind us of our favor while inviting us to endure the impossible? Life makes demands of us that God uses to change us forever. Our response makes all the difference.

 

26-years-ago on December 23rd, I waited at the hospital while my father underwent open heart surgery. Someone paged me on the hospital intercom. ‘They wouldn’t announce my dad’s passing,’ I thought. The call came from Annette back home who exclaimed in a panic: ‘Jim [a staff person] has holed himself up in a hotel and is threatening suicide due to accusations that he sexually abused a minor…’

 

I called Jim, talked him out of suicide then was invited by my father’s doctor to see the patient. He was disoriented, flying high on heavy meds and hooked up to a tangle of tropically colored wires. Dad’s bewildered state corresponded to mine: Jim? Abuse? Thoughts collided as I held Dad’s hand and heard him babbling. He recovered. Our recovery had yet to begin.

 

Jim had injected our ministry with toxic immorality. We fired him and informed the police. A tough 10-year process of refinement began. Wise guides disciplined us to ensure we would continue abuse-free.

 

Zechariah is helpful (Lk. 1:11-19). Gabriel visited him before Mary, and Zeke’s controlling response comforts me. The old priest’s response is not immaculate. When Gabriel declares that Zechariah and barren Elizabeth will bring forth firebrand John the Baptist, he tries to mop himself off the floor by demanding a map, more knowledge, a strategy. ‘How can I be sure of this?’ (v. 18). Thrown off, he grasps for control by insisting on a more logical prophecy. Like us, he demands of mystery what it cannot give.

 

God mutes Zechariah and gives him a whole 9-months of silence to conceive consent (vs. 19-22). I empathize with him. I grasp for control when levelled by scary angels. Noisy with intense, often indecent language, I lose my voice.

 

God helps us in weakness. He may discipline us, but He never withholds the invitation to an authentic ‘yes.’ His grace over time grants us consent. Then He conceives new life in us. One greater in us overcomes fear, and we find our voice. Zechariah did, and he gave us a father’s song for the ages (vs. 67-79).     

 

Mary graces us. As troubled as Zechariah is by the angel, she resists the temptation to grasp after facts. She counters control with consent, fear with faith: ‘Tell me more…’ She leans into the mystery, content to conceive and grow in ‘the love that surpasses knowledge’ (Eph. 3:19).

 

I love her response to scary Gabriel: ‘May it be to me as you have said’ (Lk. 1:38). In other words, I don’t know what all this means but I trust that good will come from it (Henri Nouwen).

 

May it be to us as You say.

 

‘What transformed Mary into royalty is that she recognized God as a God of challenge. She experienced what it means to be torn away from all normal destinies and, thereby, to be caught in new possibilities. She stands as a healing and helping source of strength, right in the middle of what no one can know beforehand’ (Fr. Alfred Delp, Advent Holy Hour, Munich, 1942).


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