Guardian Angels: Our Intercessor to "Notice" God's Presence
Memorial of the Guardian Angels
Have you ever felt alone in your life? Years ago coming back to the States from the Philippines to report to my first assignment in Oakley, CA, I went there all by myself as I didn’t want to bother people from my previous parish in Holy Spirit to take me to the boonies (the middle of nowhere – urban dictionary). And so, as I was driving I-580 or Interstate 580 leading to Oakland then to Oakley, I felt so tired and very sleepy (a big “no no” when driving) due to jetlag. But just as when I was about to fall asleep, I heard a police siren right behind me with the traffic patrol signaling someone to pull over. At first, I didn’t mind it since I thought it wasn’t me. It was only until he started using his megaphone as if shouting to me that I realized I was the one being asked to pull over! I had no recollection of the policeman as to how he looked like, but he gave me a ticket for breaking the “MUST EXIT” sign as I swerved back to the freeway. From that point of my journey, I never ever felt sleepy again until I reached my destination in Oakley just thinking about the huge amount that’s at stake for violating the traffic law. For how much? A staggering 480 dollars!
Today, we celebrate the Memorial of the Guardian Angels. On this same memorial last year, Pope Francis said in his homily, “No one journeys alone and no one should think that they are alone.” And so, our guardian angels serve as our intercessors and companions in our journey. Moreover, to that same effect, Sr. Fe last Saturday on “Exploring Interiority,” started her reflection with something very beautiful and profound when she quoted these words, “Prayer is to encounter God in the depths of my inner self and notice God’s love stretching or moving me as He wills.” Personally, I felt comforted by the word “notice” a "wonderful awareness." Unless, we notice the love of God working in our lives, we cannot become integrated and contemplative individuals. Just like our guardian angels, our prayer leads us toward recognizing the presence of God in our lives and so remind us that we are NEVER alone in life … as in a song, “God is watching us from a distance.”
It is in this light that I would like to focus my final homily within this 3-month AIR program of renewal and healing. I would like to invite each one of us to go back to our own identity not only as Catholics, but more importantly, as priests whom God looks upon with a heart filled with compassion and unconditional love. By looking at our identity, may it remind us to notice and so encounter the very source of our being – the God who constantly beckons us to love like he did.
Let me highlight two aspects of priestly-Christian identity taken from my reflections on Optatam Totius (Decree on Priestly Training) and Pastores Dabo Vobis (Apostolic Exhortation On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Modern Day):
One, each one of us is a PUBLIC PERSON. Of course, this does not undermine privacy and personal boundaries. What I mean about being a public person is that we relate to people as social beings and in so doing, we influence or inspire other people in the way we conduct ourselves in public. There is an Aristotlean-Thomistic principle which says, “Agere siquitor esse” which means “Action follows being.” Our being or our over-all make up is manifested by our actions. As priests and Christians therefore, we MUST manifest Christ in the way we conduct ourselves in public because that is WHO WE ARE regardless of age, color, race, nationality, and gender. When we lose sight of such identity, we tend to misuse and worse, abuse the priestly power entrusted to our care. We lose sight to notice the love of God at work in our ministry and so we fall down and at times never get up.
I could vividly remember an incident in the last parish where I was assigned. It was PRO-FAMILY and PRO-LIFE month and so the theme of our homilies must gear towards those advocacies. I remember saying in my homily with conviction these words: “The nature of marriage as it has always been is a union between one man and one woman and that is the TRUTH!” After the Mass, as I was greeting the people, I saw a couple rushing towards me with two kids alongside them. One guy looked furious while the other one was a bit passive. The first guy talked to me sarcastically saying: “What was it that you said at Mass, Father?” Then, pointing his finger to the other guy and the kids, he said, “This is my partner so and so and this, Father, are our kids!” Satisfied that he said his piece, there he left me flabbergasted. And so, I asked myself the question, “was I wrong with my statement?” I don’t think so. It took me years in Theology not to disprove that. But, “was I compassionate or pastoral in my approach?” That’s when humility started to sink in. I was insensitive to have used the pulpit and the power vested upon me as a minister without minding, who my people really were: their struggles, their pastoral needs and much more, their confused identity. I have noticed the duty, but not the likeness of God attached to it.
Two, we are extensions of the SACRAMENTAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST. As priests, we too, are living sacraments of God for part of our identity is to be living signs of Christ’s mission that people may be able to receive God’s abundant graces through Christ. We do ministry and the sacraments for the salvation of souls. So whenever possible, we should make the WORD of GOD heard as much as we can. We should be living signs of that WORD who is CHRIST.
There was this fascinating story about a nun in the name of Mother Dolores Hart who used to be a famous actress and has worked with Elvis Presley and other famous actors of her time. She’s a convert herself and it’s interesting how she was drawn to Christianity especially that moment when she met Pope John XXIII (now a Saint).
On that meeting she narrated, “When I went to meet Pope John, he was so kind. When they announced to him that I would play St. Clare, he said; "Ohhhh, You are St. Clare." and I said "No, No, Your Holiness, my name is Dolores Hart, an actress" and he said, "No, no I DO understand, but for YOU, YOU are St. Clare." I stopped him again, "Sorry your Holiness, I am Dolores Hart." He insisted, "Yes, Yes I understand, but for you it is Clare." I bowed my head and asked for his blessing and nearly died."
Dolores’ meeting with the Pope made her realize that “Clara” or “St. Clare” was not simply a person totally different from her but rather a person, who by her being as Christian, is herself too. She realized that there shouldn’t be a dichotomy in the way she portrays the Saint and in the way she lives her life as an actress and now a nun!
So, who are we as sacramental extensions of Christ? After this 3-month program, I feel that it is our duty to remind ourselves of our true identity and to keep it in mind in whatever we do. Sr. Mary once told us, “we could only reach a higher level of contemplation once our very lives become prayer itself.” Again, a prayer, which notices the love of God working in our lives!
Now, going back to my traffic ticket. When I went to Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to pay my ticket, the guy who was at the front desk told me that there was no record of such ticket in the system. Though, I have the docket number, the system could not just find it. And so, he told me to wait in the mail and give it some time. But, my dear friends, up until this point, I have never received a mail for that ticket. Sheer luck? Maybe. But, I believe SOMEONE was there (my guardian angel) to pull me over through the traffic enforcer in order that I may arrive to my destination safely. Personally, I believe God assigns a heavenly bodyguard to each of His children here on earth to support us and to keep us safe from the evil forces in this world. We are NOT ALONE. Archangels, Guardian Angels, etc. these are spiritual entities that remind us of the presence of God and to notice Him at work in our lives as we exercise our true identity as PUBLIC PERSONS and SACRAMENTAL extensions of Christ Himself.
Let me end my homily with a video clip.
Funeral - from Family.org
The little imperfections that make us PERFECT in the eyes of God. Without undermining our weaknesses, limitations and imperfections as we manifest in our lives our true Christian and priestly identity, let us lift them to God and through our Guardian Angels intercede for us that we may always notice the love of God at work in our life.