Touched by an angel

I recently had dinner at the home of a cancer survivor. I was struck by the myriad angel images she had throughout her home. She confessed a personal connection with angels, going so far as to tell me about angelic encounters that sustained her through her most difficult moments. I must admit, when I studied theology I had a difficult time with angels. The Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that just as there is a "First Mover," so, too, there must be spiritual secondary movers. While I could grasp that on a philosophical level, I could never reconcile these "pure spirits" with the cute little winged cherubs that played so prominently in my religious tradition. Then a professor opened my eyes. He asked if I believed there were other forms of intelligent life in the universe. Like most people, I said yes. Then, he asked, why not call these other forms of intelligent life "angels"? In fact, angels have always been part of the world's great religions, primarily serving the Divine Being as messengers, and mere mortals as protectors. Without question, they are fascinating curiosities in our culture. Angels figure prominently in some of the greatest works of art. You'll also find them on less-inspired works such as lapel pins, pencil erasers and refrigerator magnets. I've seen them adorning cubicle walls and garden paths. Angels have been the subject of Tony award-winning broadway plays, Emmy award-winning TV shows and Academy Award-winning movies. In fact, one of the most popular movies of all time (and one of my personal favorites), It's a Wonderful Life, is a story about a man and his guardian angel. Even people who aren't readily associated with a particular religious tradition like to identify with angels. Consider groups as varied as the Angels professional baseball team and the Hell's Angels motorcycle club. The point is, we like to think that we're somehow being guided or inspired or influenced by these celestial beings.In the Bible, angels appear at times when enormous faith is demanded. And their message is almost always the same: "Do not be afraid."Don't shoot the messenger. In all honesty, we sometimes have every good reason to be afraid. So what are we to make of that divine message? Elsewhere in the scriptures, we learn that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). The antidote to fear, then, is love. If you've ever been debilitated by fear, you probably already know the healing power of unbounded love.So, have you been touched by an angel? If so, how has that encounter with "pure spirit" changed your life?