In 1986 Billy Graham wrote a book about angels. In it he recounts a most amazing story. John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides islands. One night the warriors from one of the local tribes surrounded the mission headquarters, planning to burn the Patons out and kill them. As you can imagine, John Paton and his wife were terrified, and prayed all through the night that God would save them. When daylight came they were astonished to see the warriors leave without attacking them.
A year later the chief of the tribe became a Christian. During the course of their conversations John Paton asked the chief about that night. What had kept the warriors from burning down the house and killing them? The chief answered this question with a question of his own, “Who were all those men you had there with you?” Paton replied, “There was no one other than my wife and I,” The chief strongly disagreed. He told Paton that he and his warriors had seen hundreds of men standing guard around the mission headquarters, men with shining clothes, holding drawn swords.
If you have ever been to the beach you’ve seen the seagulls as they run back and forth as the waves come crashing along the shore. You’ve probably also seen young children imitating the seagulls, running back and forth trying outdistance the incoming waves. If you run out too far, then you get soaked. If you stay high on the beach… well.. where’s the fun in that. However, at just about any given point during the day there is a certain distance that if you just stand there, on occasion, the waves will sometimes come up just enough to touch your feet, but most times they come up short.
Now, picture if you will that you are standing in that perfect spot, but instead of the waves being the ocean they are heaven. It is the power of God working around you. As you stand there you always know that it is very near. It’s currents and waves are working powerfully around you all the time. You can hear it and sense it. Occasionally it seems to recede from you, while at other times it draws very near, but then there is that occasion when you “Know” deep down inside that heaven has actually touched you.
In the story of John Paton and his wife, like a wave on the seashore, for a brief time heaven touched them. The angels could actually be seen guarding the missionaries through that dangerous night. These waves of heaven happen all the time, but when we “know” that we have been touched we call them miracles.
How do these miracles occur? The most honest answer: It’s a mystery. But there are three ways that I believe they come about. The first is through God acting directly. At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, it was Jesus – God – who turned the water into wine. God acted directly. Second, miracles come about through his angels, his messengers, like in the story of the missionaries. Throughout Holy Scripture we are told of the works of the angels, bringing messages such as the one to the Blessed Virgin; but it is also implied that we each have a guardian angel, for Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, “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.” It is these guardians that we celebrate today and many times their actions also bring about miracles – touches from heaven.
So miracles come about through God’s direct action and his angels, but I would suggest to you that the third source of many of God’s miracles is you. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Jesus says, that we too can perform miracles.
Miracles are mysteries as are the angels of God, but when you witness a miracle consider the source. Was it God or was it the person standing next to you. If neither of those two sources seem fitting, then consider the words of St. Paul, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unknowingly entertained angels.”