Daily Reflection
September 29th, 1999
Al Agresti, S.J.
Arts & Sciences

The Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
John 1:47-51

Today’s readings challenge us to reflect on how we choose to live our lives, and how we help, or don’t help, others to live theirs.  The Gospels require that we live our lives not according to an attitude of “live and let live” but one of “live and help live.”  I have no doubt that each of us can think of people in our lives who have treated us with indifference or even cruelty.  A parent who never seemed to have time for us, a counselor who discouraged us from pursuing our dreams because of our gender or our race, a teacher who told us that we didn’t have what it would take, while never quite being able or willing to explain what “it” was.  And we can all think of people in our lives who have had the opposite effect.  Persons who did everything they could to make sure that we had a chance to become who and what we are, and to show what we could accomplish.  People who not only encouraged us to dream, but even forced us to dream!  The people who stunt our ability to live, or who help us to live more fully, are the people we meet each and every day. They are our parents, our siblings, our friends, our roommates, our teachers.

Angels are God’s creatures, and consistent with Jesus’ assertion that He came so that we might have life and have it to the full, Angels help us to be fully alive to God and provide us with real life experiences of God’s love and care for us.  Some people do hurt our ability to be fully alive, to be ourselves.  They are determined to make us conform to their preconceived notions of who and what we should be.  They are certain that they know what God wants, and their power over us depends on their ability to convince us to accept their judgment of us as God’s judgment.  This dynamic is presented very humorously in the character from Saturday Night Live, the Church Lady.  The way she looks out from the corners of her eyes and down her nose as she utters her famous put down “Isn’t that special!”  But behind the humor is a very deadening message, a message grounded in the image of God as a cold, cruel, heartless judge.  “Do what I tell you to do or else.  Conform or else.  Above all, fear me and what I can and will do to you!”  This doesn’t sound like Good News to me.

How do we help one another to live more fully, to hear, see and taste the Good News of God’s love and care for us?  How do we help one another to break free of our fears -- fears of being different, or of taking a chance, our fears of our own humanity?  One thing we can do is to seek out those people who are free enough and comfortable enough with who they are before God to help us to become more free and comfortable to be ourselves before God.  Back in the 50's there was an hilarious Broadway play called Auntie Mame.  The story is about a little boy, Patrick, who is orphaned at the age of ten and goes to live with his only remaining relative, his rather wealthy, very eccentric Auntie Mame. Mame and Patrick grow to love one another as deeply and genuinely as any mother and son can.  Mame’s constant exhortation to Patrick is “Live, Live” and she is determined that he will grow up living life not in fear but with gusto, passion, and above all, with openness to all its possibilities.  Mame knows that no matter what you do, people are going to talk about you.  And Mame goes through life giving people plenty to talk about, believe me.

Mame utters the wonderful line “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving!” God offers us so much, and we limit ourselves in what we will accept as God’s gift.  In the gift of life, God spreads out a banquet before us, but, in effect we respond “No thanks....I’ll just pick.”  We take God’s creation, we take one another, we take ourselves, and we pigeon hole, label, categorize, and judge who and what is holy, and who and what is not.  And like the Church Lady, we look down our noses at one another, and at ourselves, and we say “Isn’t that special,” all the time forgetting that God, in Christ, freely and willingly took on and embraced our humanity, the very humanity that many of us are so afraid of embracing.  Angels are God’s love and care for us made real in and through their actions, and as such invite us to mirror in our own actions more fully God who, out of love for us, embraced our humanity and made it holy.

It’s important that we have angels in our lives.  They keep us on our toes, they keep us honest, they help us to live.  One such person for me is my father’s oldest sister.  My aunt is 78 years old and so is the matriarch of our family.  She’s widowed, her children are grown and so lives alone, and she loves to travel.  This coming winter, as a 79th birthday present to herself, my aunt plans to visit her cousin in Australia whom she has not seen since the two of them left Italy as teenagers just before World War II.  My aunt says she wants to visit before she gets “old.”  Now, that’s living life to the full!

We must never reject or be scandalized by our humanity, or other people’s humanity.  We must seek out those people who will help us be more capable of understanding another person’s hopes and dreams, make us more able to empathize with another person’s pain or fears, make us more able to share in their joys and happiness.  To be scandalized by our humanity makes it all to easy to devalue another person, to devalue ourselves.

Angels enable and challenge us to help one another live life fully, and to be the person that God created us to be.  Angels, as is true with all God’s creatures, are created to reveal God’s infinite grace and gifts, to reveal his love and yes, even his sense of humor.  We should never be afraid to be who and what we are.  God does not ask that we surrender that unique reflection of Him that each one of us is.  We are called to live our lives not in fear, but in openness to all of life’s possibilities.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.
Online Ministries 
Home Page
for Sunday
Online Retreat
Daily Readings Texts 
from the 
New American Bible
Daily Readings Texts 
from the 
RSV Bible
Spirituality Links
Saint of the Day
Collaborative Ministry Office  
Home Page
University Ministry 
Home Page
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook