A conversation with an angel

Published 11:53 pm Saturday, May 4, 2024

By R.A. Mathews


I can hardly be blamed for this — everyone I knew said Cath-licks.

Email newsletter signup

It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I was enlightened. That happened during seminary, when I studied at a monastery for an interterm. The Cath-licks, with a grin, informed me they were Cath-o-licks. Honestly, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Baptists shudder at many Catholic ideas. “We (Baptists) talk to God,” my pastor had patiently said to me as a child, when I asked about angels. “We aren’t Cath-licks.”

I didn’t know anything about the Cath-licks, but I was fascinated with angels. And why not? Angels appear all over the Bible. And they have comforting conversations with people.

Consider Gabriel, who explained the upcoming birth of Jesus to a young virgin. Gabriel also interpreted visions for a Hebrew who, as a boy, had been taken far from his home and family  (Luke 1:26-38, Daniel 8 and 9).

The list goes on and on, but perhaps the most unlikely of all angel conversations is the first one in Scripture.

It seems that by the time Abram (later called Abraham) turned 85, he had no son, even though God had promised to make a great nation of his descendants. So his wife Sarai (later called Sarah) gave her slave woman to Abraham.

Once Hagar conceived, she mistreated Sarah and was so severely punished that she ran away. That’s when an angel comforted Hagar. Here’s the passage:

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not borne him a child … So Sarai said to Abram, ‘… Please have relations with my slave woman; perhaps I will obtain children through her’ … (but) when Hagar became aware that she had conceived, her mistress was insignificant in her sight …  So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

“Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water … He said, ‘Hagar … where are you going?’ And she said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.’ So the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority’” (Genesis 16:1-9).

As you can see, this wasn’t Hagar witnessing an angel—she had a conversation with him.

The angel continued and said, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count … you will give birth to a son; And you shall name him Ishmael, Because the Lord has heard your affliction…” (Genesis 16:10-11).

That’s not the end of Hagar’s story.

When Abraham turned 100, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, who would father Israel. And Sarah wanted to be rid of Hagar and her son. Thus, this tragic scene unfolds.

“Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born … Now Sarah … said to Abraham, ‘Drive out this slave woman and her son, for the son … shall not be an heir with my son Isaac!’ … So Abraham got up early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water, and … gave her the boy, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes … for she said, ‘May I not see the boy die!’ And she sat opposite him, and raised her voice and wept” (Genesis 21:2-16).

That’s when the angel returned to her. And this is so beautiful.

“God heard the boy crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar … (saying), ‘What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear … Get up, lift up the boy, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water …  And God was with the boy, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness… ”  (Genesis 21:17-20).

When God chooses you, expect the road to be rough. But He is with you.

Just as God sent an angel to Hagar, saying, “The Lord has heard your affliction,” He also hears your suffering.

When Hagar was alone in the desert, facing death with her son, the angel returned to guide her to a well.

Talk with your guardian angel — just like the Cath-o-licks. Google Pope John Paul II. He said modern thinkers don’t see the importance of angels.

Know that God will show you the way through your wilderness. Amid your tears and your fear, lift up your heart in praise and prayer.

The Lord is with you.

The Rev. Mathews (BA, MDiv, JD) is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of Emerald Coast: The Vendetta. Write to her at Hello@RAMathews.com. (Just one t in Mathews)

Copyright © 2024 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.