When I think of guardian angels, I imagine wispy white spirits hovering over each of us, ready to swoop in and protect us from danger, pulling us out of flaming cars, saving us from death. I also recall statues I’ve seen, adult figures with folded wings shielding a small child, or paintings with images of adult angels gazing lovingly on sleeping children. Hence the connection with the gospel for today, “do not despise one of these little ones … their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
Searching for connections between the first reading from Job and today’s gospel led me to another but less familiar way that guardian angels look after our souls.
I’m not sure which is more painful, which we avoid more: giving voice to our own suffering, or listening to or observing the suffering of another. Both require a tremendous amount of courage; both are an invitation to experience our vulnerability and utter helplessness, our complete dependence upon God. We don’t even like to express our distress over the minor disappointments of life lest we be perceived as being shallow, petty, or a “wuss”. Given this tendency, it’s remarkable that these passages from Job and Psalm 88 (one of two Psalms that do not end with a note of hopefulness) made it into our sacred scriptures. I’m not suggesting we all need to be whiners, just wondering if, when we withhold expression of our suffering or deny our pain, especially with God, and even in matters someone else might judge as minor, that a part of our soul shrivels and we lose the opportunity for God to love us, bless us, and heal us.
If we are honest with ourselves, we too have had moments so excruciating that, like Job, we wish we had never been born; or, long for death to bring an end to our anguish and misery. The circumstances for each of us varies depending on culture, geography, health and history - failing a course, losing a football game, having a life threatening illness, battling depression, recovering from a tragic accident, the death of a loved one, the ravages of war, the unspeakable horrors of abuse and torture – only God knows what strips us of meaning and purpose. What if it is also the voice of our guardian angel that we hear, whispering in our ear, “speak up! Unburden your heart!” God, and others, need to hear our desperate pleas – how else can our hearts be opened to receive the energy and power of God’s healing love? How else do we know God cares for me?
I wonder, if we were more willing to speak honestly about our wounds and broken hearts and broken dreams to God and each other, as easily and as frequently as children do with their parents, we might not see as much violence in the world. Maybe we need to trust more that God cares and will respond, just as children have unwavering confidence in their parents. Do we quit telling God our pains because they aren’t “fixed”? We would have no need to seek revenge, inflict pain on others or make others suffer as we have if our own pain is eased or we have the support of another in bearing it.
Prayer for today: God, help me be honest, at least with you, about my wounds; help me to recognize the wounds of others in their words and actions so I may share their pain.