Angels among us

Remember always to welcome strangers,
for by doing this,
some people have entertained angels
without knowing it.
-Hebrews 13:2

Easier said than done. Easier to accept the strange, the oddity, the abnormal, the out of the ordinary, when they are on TV, or online, or in the news, or at our neighbor's door. But as soon as they knock on our doors, maybe our hearts harden, suddenly paralyzed and tongue-tied, looking for an excuse to close the door.

What do you do if your husband told you he has prostate cancer, lost his job, or wants a divorce? What if your son tells you he is gay or a member of a hate group? What if you found out your daughter is a prostitute to support her meth addiction?

How welcoming will you be when you are face to face with these issues? Would you be able to do what you would advise a friend, a neighbor, when they are experiencing these strangeness? Can you keep your heart open in hell?

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,

and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

-Psalm 34


Wakan Tonka

Great Spirit, help me never to judge another
until I have walked in his moccasins.
-Sioux Indian Prayer

Wakan Tonka. That is "Heavenly Father" in Sioux language as told to me by Marlon Red Elk. He is a tall, 50-ish Sioux Indian I met at Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn , Washington when my wife and daughter and friends went to see a show. A kind and friendly guy who saw me and asked: How are you doing, young man? I answered, I am doing fine. I am not so young anymore, but thank you. He replied, me either, but I am young at heart.

I found out he dances in full Sioux Indian gear and showed me a photo of his brother in dance costume complete with face paint. I asked him what he wished were different in his Montana reservation. He wished that the community elders just accept the fact that the white men are here to stay. The elders still have a lot of anger in them. But he, Marlon, struck me as a happy, content person who seeks peace. Respectful of the land, he is grateful for what the earth provides.

Every morning, when he wakes up, he faces eastward, and give thanks to the rising sun. He asks rhetorically, How hard is that?

How about you? Can you remember to stay in bed for a few seconds after waking up and be aware of a few breaths then say thanks for a new beginning, a new day, a new life, before your toes touch the floor?

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
-Psalm 100


Ephphatha, be opened.

He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

-Mark 7

My old ears suffer from tinnitus, and they just don't hear very well. So my hearing is not reliable, to say the least. One time, while watching a car commercial, I heard "and the squirrel is standard option." What squirrel. I asked my wife. She corrected me: spoiler. Squirrel is funnier.

So when I read this gospel, I connected with the cured man's excitement. And yet, I wondered what the symbolism in Jesus opening his ears. Thanks to Father Larry Gillick, SJ. He enlightened me.

The following is excerpted from his Creighton U's Daily Reflection:

The Gospel calls this fellow, “a deaf person”. That is what others called him and so that was his name, his image, his defectiveness. In placing His fingers into the man’s ears, Jesus is asking the man to be open to whom Jesus names him. The challenge before the man then, would be to live that healed name.

Jesus redeems this man more than heals him. This is the work, the laboring, of Jesus to bring all of us out of our deafness, to lives of hearing deeply that to which Jesus asks us to listen. He did all things well, except He cannot force any of us to really listen and allow what we hear to bring us more into full creation. Listening to adjectives by which we define ourselves impedes our ability to hear. We have our own personal fingers in our ears and we can be so accustomed to not listening that we can assume nothing different is being spoken.

How about you? What might you hear if your ears are open to the Voice of the One who calls us to Love, instead of the voice of your willful mind or of your neurotic, fearful ego?

Happy those whose help is Jacob's God, whose hope is in the LORD, their God,The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever,secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free;the LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.

-Ps. 146