• Sarah Raad


We will never ever know what it cost God to see our sins upon the Cross.

Christus als guter Hirte (Christ the Good Shepherd) (Lucas Cranach)

Lent begins tomorrow. I have never liked Lent. I have always seen it as a terrible burdensome time where everything seems just a little bit harder to do. I am a hangry person, so fasting is problematic for the people around me. I am an impatient person, so abstinence is problematic because I need to rethink meal plans. I am a selfish person, so offerings are irksome.

All my life I have found this period of fasting, abstinence and sacrifice extremely challenging.

One of my dear aunts jokes that once many years ago some nuns asked her what she was offering up for Lent and she told them that she makes no additional sacrifices for Lent because she is married and that is sacrifice enough!

While her joke is funny – there is wisdom in that humour!

As a wife of only some 12 years, I have come to realise that Catholic Marriage – contrary to the presentation of marriage in popular culture – is a vocation of sacrifice that requires great Grace.

That is why marriage – like Holy Orders – is a sacrament.

While it is lovely to see photos of weddings taking place in gardens, on the beach or at various other pretty and unusual locations, there is a reason why the Catholic Church rarely ever allows the marrying couple a dispensation to have their wedding outside the church.

It is because marriage is a SACRAMENT for a VOCATION. As a sacrament, marriage require prayer and preparation and most importantly – GRACE! Therefore, marriage – as a sacrament – must take place inside a Church where all the other sacraments take place.

As a person who has remained married through some very difficult moments, I can firmly attest that the ONLY reason that my husband and I are still together today is because of the MIRACLE of GOD’S GRACE. Yes, we love each other and have worked on our relationship and how to better communicate with each other and make time for each other and cooperate with each other – but these things are NOT enough for two people to stay married.

No. It is not love or even commitment that holds a married couple together – it is the GRACE of GOD. That is the only glue that can keep two flawed human souls together through thick and thin. And in the tragic cases where a couple do not stay together – then in that suffering – God gives them the grace to cope with that too.

So, as I prepare for Lent this year – in light of the experience that I had in praying for the health of my beautiful little niece before she was even born last Lent – my approach is somewhat different.

I have not really changed – not implicitly – I am still as weak as I always was. How could I not be any stronger – riddled as I am with sin?

I am still not great at sacrificing, abstaining or offering. I am just really weak. Also – as my aunt would say – I am married, so…

And yet this year – all jokes are pushed aside.

For now I can see something HORRIFIC about Lent.

Last year, while I was praying for my beautiful baby niece, who was so very sick (and will need prayers all her life), God heard my prayers and He gave me HIS answer – which was something more than that which I had asked of Him.

Yes. My niece survived her surgeries and is a beautiful child today because God answered our prayers. Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

I received something more profound, more valuable and more pure that I would ever have had the wisdom to ask for in those prayers…

I received the Holy Spirit into my soul – suddenly, willingly, beautifully.

And how I adore Him! I sometimes think that if I spent a lifetime trying to communicate my love for Him, I would die of grief because there is nothing that I could ever say that could ever express what I now feel for God.

And I did not earn this feeling. It was not a reward. I did not deserve it. Quite the contrary – I am a sinner. A terrible sinner.

And yet, through the mystery of God’s love for me, though I was the Lost Sheep, God left the 99 – the good sheep that deserved far more from Him than my sinful self – and going out, He went in search of ME… Stupid, sinful, selfish ME – who can barely offer a sacrifice, cannot abstain and makes no true offering!

For ME – for love of me – God left the others… For ME!

Last year – through prayers for my beautiful baby niece – I finally allowed Him to find me.

Thank God that God is the GOOD SHEPHERD!

So, this Lent, while I struggle to offer something to God in atonement for my sins and those other others; for the first time, I can see a little shadow beyond the inconvenience that I feel.

This Lent – for the first time – I can see the HORROR of God who saw my sins upon the Cross!

For me alone Christ died on that Cross. For ME.


How sorry I am!

How terribly sorry!

For with sorrow, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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