Thursday, October 02, 2008

We Are Not Alone

Think of the time and energy and the amount of funding that's been poured into the SETI program every year (that's the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Think of the fascination, the Sehnsucht, we've all felt at one point in life or another when watching a film like E.T. or Close Encounters or even Star Wars... Haven't we all cried out to the "universe" at some point in life in the words of that classic James Ingram/Linda Ronstadt song "Somewhere out there, someone's saying a prayer, that we'll find one another.... in that big Somewhere... out there." (I'm really hoping you sang as you read that last line, and I hope it sticks in your head all day. Great song.) There's a deep seated desire in many of us to seek friends in high places, to ascertain whether or not we are alone in this universe. They say there's no desire (outside the twisted kind) that does not have its object somewhere to satiate it. It makes sense for us to look up and wonder about the presence of "higher" life forms. After all, when we look down we see myriads of life forms; a plethora of pulsating polycellular organisms. Millions of species in countless shapes and sizes. So who are we to say that above us in the Great Chain of Being there are not also countless species? To this question and this quest, the Church says there is an answer; Angels. They are real, they are here, but not in the same way we are here. They are our true Big Brothers. Well, not brothers (or sisters) ultimately; they are not embodied as we humans. They are as high above the biological realm, male and female, as we are above single-celled organisms; higher actually. Haven't you sensed them in your life? Perhaps in more innocent moments, when you were "fresh from the waters of Baptism" or alone in a wood or by the sea. They love to come to us when our guard is down, when we've slipped off the cynicism of the world and are more open, more vulnerable, more.... receptive. But here is where we need wisdom and a truly informed mind. For just as Angels are spiritual persons (having free will, like we human persons) so they too can manipulate and dominate to an evil end. They are free to serve or to enslave others, just like us. Today we celebrate the Guardian Angels, the Loyal Ones, whose choice was to love and serve God. It is to these holy spirits that we should entrust ourselves more and more, just as they have been entrusted by God to us. “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 18) In these days of so many popular, faceless "spiritualities" we need more than ever the protection of God's Angels. And our thoughts should often turn to them. The Guardian Angel prayer should be whispered every day. And this prayed faithfully so that in the end, when the moment of eternity dawns, we might find ourselves safe and carried to Heaven in their care. I'll close with the final letter of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. It shows the veil pulled back, as a "senior devil" reveals his consternation and despair as another human soul slips through his fingers, thanks to the Guardian Angels: Screwtape to his nephew devil, Wormwood: "As he saw you, he also saw Them. I know how it was. You reeled back dizzy and blinded, more hurt by them than he had ever been by bombs. The degradation of it!—that this thing of earth and slime (that's us!) could stand upright and converse with spirits before whom you, a spirit, could only cower. Perhaps you had hoped that the awe and strangeness of it would dash his joy. But that is the cursed thing; the gods are strange to mortal eyes, and yet they are not strange. He had no faintest conception till that very hour of how they would look, and even doubted their existence. But when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not "Who are you?" but "So it was you all the time."
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