“Angels,” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’S of Faith

Buechner, Frederick

HarperSanFrancisco, 2004

pp. 17-18

“Sleight-Of-Hand Magic is based on the demonstrable fact that as a rule people see only what they expect to see.  Angels are powerful spirits whom God sends into the world to wish us well.  Since we don’t expect to see them, we don’t.  An angels spreads its glittering wings over us, and we say things like, ‘It was one of those days that made you feel good just to be alive,’ or ‘I had a hunch everything was going to turn out just right,’ or ‘I don’t know where I ever found the courage.’”

p. 32

“Balaam” in Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’S of Faith “In the book of Numbers, Balaam’s ass sees an angel of the Lord barring the way with a drawn sword in his hand and thereupon lies down in the middle of the road with Balaam still on his back.  When Balaam clobbers him over the head with a stick, the ass speaks out reproachfully in fluent Hebrew, and then Balaam sees the angels too.  This is perhaps a clue to the mystery.  Whereas people as a rule see only what they expect to see and little more, animals, innocent of expectation, see what is there.  The next time the old mare looks up from her browsing and lets fly with an exultant whinny at the empty horizon, we might do well to consider at least the possibility that the horizon might not be quite as empty as we think.