Angels play an important role in St. Luke’s gospel and its continuation, the Acts of the Apostles, which we read during the Easter season. Angels appear to Zachary in the temple announcing the birth and name of John, but the priest rejects the angel’s message and loses his speech. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, announcing the coming of Jesus and she welcomes his message and breaks into song as the Holy Spirit comes upon her. Angels announce the birth of Jesus to the poor shepherds and send them off to Bethlehem to see the newborn Child. Later in the gospel, an angel appears to Jesus to strengthen him as he prays in Garden of Gethsemane.
Besides angels, the Holy Spirit is important for Luke. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus announces in the synagogue of Nazareth, “to bring glad tidings to the poor.” As he ascends into heaven he tells his disciples “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Notice in Luke’s accounts, how often angels and the Spirit of the Lord tell people to go somewhere. “Go to Bethlehem,” “Go to Egypt,” “Go to Nazareth.” In one of our readings last week an angel tells Philip to get up and head south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.” Then, after Philip meets the Ethiopian official and baptizes him, “the Spirit of the Lord snatches him away” and sends him on the road to Azotus and then to Caesaria.
It sounds like a GPS system. “Go here, turn right, head for this place or that.” Actually, a GPS system is a good analogy for what Luke wants to say. He believes that there’s a divine guidance system for our world and it’s up to us to listen to the signs we’re given and follow God’s instructions. God has a plan for this world and for each of us. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads us.
I had to drive out to Greensburg, PA, last week to conduct a retreat for the Sisters of Charity there. Most of the way I know, but I never drove to Greensburg so I decided to use a simple GPS system I have in my IPhone .
I never used it before, and to tell you the truth, I didn’t trust it. The GPS said to take Route 66 after you get off the Stanton exit; get off at route 30 and a quarter of mile after that you will be there. I followed it, but then I saw a sign for route 130 and I said to myself, “This thing is wrong, It must mean route 130.” I got off at 130 and I was wrong. The GPS was smarter than I was. So I had to call the convent and say, “ Sister, I’m lost, can you come and get me.”
No matter who we are, we need to pray for guidance and listen to the ways the Lord speaks to us. God is smarter than we are.
Today is Mothers’ Day. I think the smartest mothers, like the smartest fathers, the smartest anybodys, are those who know they need the guidance of God and pray for it every day. A mother I know wrote this prayer some years ago. Here she is, a mother praying for angels and the grace to hear them:
O Lord, I need your help today.
I want to care
for those you’ve sent into my life,
to help them develop the special gifts
you’ve given them.
But I also want to free them to follow their own paths and to bring their loving wisdom to the world.
Help me to embrace them without clutching, to support them without suffocating, to correct them without crushing.
And help me to live joyfully and playfully, myself, so they can see your life in me and find their way to you. Amen.
(Virginia Burke Phelan)