• Sarah Raad


Updated: Dec 29, 2020

When we reflect on the goodness of grief, we can acknowledge the goodness of God in everything.

Christ Appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way (Annibale Carracci)

Today, while I was praying for a very dear friend of mine, whose heart has been troubled for some time by one she dearly loves, it occurred to me that life is filled with times of grief.

I pray for so many things these days. There are the intentions of people who pray with us, notably Leila’s intentions, and yours. The suffering Souls in Purgatory, the souls of the departed – like Sandra, Brian, my Father-in-Law (Youssef), and all grandparents. Still there are so many others – those who are sick, like Vanessa, those who are getting better, like Nancy, and those who are left behind, like the families of Saint Baby Charbel and young Raphael.

My list of intentions continues to grow – in thought, word and deed. I find that when I turn, in the silence of my mind to prayer, the subject of my thoughts – my intentions – sprout like daisies in the summertime, popping up in the sunshine of Grace, with no effort from me. Remaining quiet, in the silence of my heart, I have only to ponder a little on the thoughts in my mind because God, who is spirit, can see my heart and hear my thoughts. He is my Father, my Daddy, and He listens to me and gives me strength.

Over Christmas, during this time of rejoicing, while the world it seems has gone mad due to a global pandemic, grief comes to mind. Yet there can be gratitude in that grief too if one only knows how to see.

Grief slows us down. When people grieve, they mourn the life they could have had, and often complain of time moving slowly. When we grieve, it can feel as though we hold our hands to a flame. Initially, the heat can be manageable, but over time, the blisters burned into the skin can so disfigure the hand that it may never be possible to use it in the same way again. Grief changes everything. And because this grief and change, which is the product of Original Sin, was not designed into us by The Creator, that change causes fear.

When we grieve, everything seems to work in slow motion, and it is harder to move and act, as though we are existing underwater with access to minimal light and air. Things become distorted so that what we see is a mere reflection of the truth, and somehow, though the colours under the sea are marvellous, the blue haze of the ocean mutes their glory. Grief – so much a part of this Earthly life is difficult and unwanted.

And yet, God, who is infinite goodness and love, will work His incredible purpose through this too.

For grief needs time, and God, in His infinite wisdom, allows it to slow us down and cause us to reflect. For though time is a terrible concern for us humans, time has no meaning to God, who created it. And yet He makes use of it for our sake when we grieve.

There is a beautiful 1601-2 Baroque painting by Annibale Carracci called “Christ Appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way”.

The painting depicts the legendary story of Saint Peter encountering Christ in about 62AD while attempting to flee Rome, and his pending execution by the Roman Emperor Nero.

Though this story is not recorded in the New Testament, legend tells us that Saint Peter, upon seeing Christ said, “My Lord, why are you here?”.

Christ replied, “I come to Rome to be crucified anew.” And from these words Peter understood God’s message to him. Turn back. Return. Embrace your Cross as Christ did!

History tells us that Peter did turn back to Rome, and that he was caught and executed by Nero in around 64AD. Peter was crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to die in the same way as Christ.

This is an interesting painting to reflect on as it depicts Christ’s defiance of Time and Space – the very elements to which God subjected Himself through the incarnation of Christ, by appearing to his beloved, clumsy disciple almost 40 years after His death.

Though it is mere art, and no adequate reflection of God, it is a reminder of God’s POWER to use evil for good. The crucified Christ’s physical strength and beauty in the image represents God’s moral strength and beauty, and serves as a reminder of God’s POWER.

And so, in reflecting on this POWER, and feeling the effects of TIME in my own life, it occurs to me that I have my focus all wrong.

The purpose of this life is not to move faster and gain more time – as Saint Peter tried to do in attempting to escape death – but to move slower, ever slower – like a diver beneath the waves, or a flower in the soil.

For it is only in slowing down our Earthly life that we can speed up the salvation of our soul.

And what greater Glory could there be than that?

For with time, everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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