The message of an angel

This year Ash Wednesday is the first day of March, which will set a penitential tone for the month as the Season of Lent begins. The Book of Common Prayer states that we are invited to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word (p. 265). The lives of the Holy Women and Holy Men listed on the calendar this month are shining examples for us to emulate in this quest. They can help us strengthen our spiritual person and discern God’s will for us. They learned how to listen to what the Lord was saying to them.

St. Patrick says that the Holy spirit was his guide in prayer, quoting St. Paul: “The Spirit helps the weakness of our prayers. For we know not what we should pray for or how. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with indescribable groanings that cannot be expressed in words. The Lord himself is our advocate and asks on our behalf.” Patrick began to pray in earnest after he was captured as a 16 year old youth and taken as a slave from Britain in the Roman Empire to Ireland, the land of the Picts. During the time he was forced to tend flocks of sheep, he prayed many times throughout the day. The love of God grew strong within him and his faith was strengthened. He would rise before dawn and go forth to pray, even in hail, rain, or snow. In a dream, he heard a voice that said to him, :”Thou doest well to fast; thou shalt return to thy native land.” And another night it said, “Behold, thy ship is ready.”

Amazingly, he was able to make his escape and return home. However, once at home, in another dream he was handed a letter which contained the voice of the Irish crying, “We pray thee, holy youth, to come and walk amongst us as before. (The Life of St. Patrick by J.B. Bury p. 31). “He discerned that the will of God for him was to be ordained and return to Ireland to evangelize the people there. Later in life, Patrick looked back on the time spent in bondage and deprivation in a foreign land to be the cause of his conversion and the most important stage in his spiritual development.

St. Joseph is also one who can teach us to listen to the word of God. His “yes” after the annunciation of the angel to him was legally necessary for the Kingdom of God to be established. According to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He was told to name the child that was to be born “Jesus”, for he would save his people from their sins. Joseph obeyed the angel again when he appeared in a dream and said to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. He remained in Egypt until he was again visited by an angel and told to go to Isreal. Warned again by an angel in a dream, he went to Nazareth in Galilee. Joseph is a silent man in the Bible who simply acts humbly in defense of His family. As the patron saint of fathers, artisans, and workers, his intercession and deep contemplative life is a model for all of us today.

We especially remember him this year on Monday, March 20, transferred from Sunday, March 19.

The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on March 25. The ingredients of Mary’s life can greatly inspire us. Through the message of an angel, she was told not to fear, for she has found favor with God. She, and we also, are filled with God’s grace. He is with us and we need not fear. We can call on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us. Mary shows herself to be a servant of the Lord by her obedience. She went in haste to visit her elder relative, Elizabeth and help her. She trusted in the Lord’s words and proclaimed the greatness of the Lord. She blessed Elizabeth, and in turn was blessed by Elizabeth, who told her, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months. Both women show us how to be the presence of God for each other and how to bless each other, and bring joy to each other.

God is communicating with us right now. If we can make room for silence and prayer, we may hear God’s presence calling us into a deeper relationship with him. How does God speak to us? In as many ways as there are people. Maybe he is in someone’s smile or facial expression; maybe he can be seen in snow, wind , or rain, or in the leap of a deer. Maybe he will touch you in the Eucharist or in a song. Maybe he will speak to you in a dream, with the message of an angel.

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