I expected to devote a goodly portion of my Saturday to shoveling snow. I wound up contemplating the presence of angels.
They say something like 100 million people felt the effects of this week’s winter storm, which dumped truckloads of snow and ice on a swath of geography that stretched from Mexico to New England. So there’s something utterly pedestrian about the task that awaited me over the past couple of days: I, along with 99,999,999 other folks, had to start digging out from under a thick blanket of the white stuff.
Of course, as my Sweetie frequently reminds me, I’m not as young as I used to be – and therefore, I’m perhaps not quite as capable of tackling rigorous chores as I once was. My solution in this case was to pace myself: Shovel a bit, take a rest; shovel a bit, take a rest; shovel a bit, take a rest.
The Friday-morning shift generated notable progress: Our front walk and porch got cleared…as did half of our 40-foot driveway. That meant everyday routines could resume: “Amazon deliveries” were possible once again, and we could get to the grocery store if we really needed to. It also meant I was physically spent: The second half of the driveway would simply have to await its liberation at the end of my shovel.
Then this happened: Early Saturday morning, I raised the garage door, grabbed my shovel…and discovered that we’d been visited by an angel in the night.
I’m guessing my neighbors might blush at that description. Surely, “neighborliness” was more on their minds than “holiness” when (unbidden and anonymously) they set about the task of clearing the second half of our driveway. But it was in fact “holiness” that I encountered when I saw what they had done.
Why “holiness”? Well, for starters, this kindness was as liberating as it was unexpected. For a moment or two, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what I was seeing – how the “Saturday morning drudgery” I anticipated… had simply disappeared. It seemed very much like grace.
And as I worked through my amazement, I became conscious of still another feeling – a certain sense of unworthiness. After all, I’m just one of a hundred million people who’d need to dig out from this mess across the country – why should I, in particular, be spared the labor?
Then, sitting with this Sunday’s readings, it pretty much sealed the deal on the angelic encounter. I found myself in the company of the great prophet Isaiah…and the brash fisherman Peter…both of whom experience things they cannot explain. Astonishing things…moments of grace they did not expect.
And here’s something else I noticed: Isaiah and Peter initially react to their encounters with holiness in a similar way. “Woe is me, I am doomed,” says the prophet. “Depart from me, Lord,” says the fisherman. But apparently, this is not what God desires of them at all. God doesn’t ask them to shrink from the grace they receive. Rather, God wants them to share it.
So here I am, I guess…following (very much unworthily) in their footsteps. Here I am telling you about a holiness I’ve seen, just this weekend.
Here I am, joining in the Psalmist’s refrain:
R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me…
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me…
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.