• Sarah Raad


Habitual virtues are what allow us to make our souls sweet and pleasing to God. Only Grace can allow us to do such a thing. Only Grace…

Song of the Angels (William Adolphe Bouguereau)

When we first moved into our home several years ago now, it was not in very good shape. Some would call it almost uninhabitable. Both the inside and outside of the house needed a lot of work. Lucky for us, my husband is a very handy guy. Also lucky for us I am used to living with a handyman, and so I am used to lots of little projects going at once, without quite completely losing my mind – though I have come close many many times over the years.

At one stage while we were living in our home and during the almost three-year renovation, the backyard was looking really really bare. And so, I started shopping around for some nice plants to plant along the back fence. But plants are expensive – especially when your budget is very small. And because of this, for a very long time nothing was planted. However, one day, while I was doing my grocery shopping in Aldi – about a year after we moved into the house and long before the renovation was completed – I saw some small lemon trees on sale as a special buy. I collected about 10 of them and spent about $120 on the plants. Unlike my mother-in-law, I am a truly terrible gardener, and so this was a $120 gamble for me, and I did not expect much to come of it, but I was thinking to myself how nice it would be to have some lemons around the house. We planted the trees – mostly lemon trees – with little expectation that they would survive.

Every year my husband loyally fertilised and watered those trees. Each year they grew a little more. Last year, there was a little fruit on the trees. Not enough to do anything exciting with, just enough that we could squeeze a couple of lemons into a salad. But this year, the trees have obviously matured. This year – thank God – we have literally been swimming in lemons. Kilos and kilos of lemons have been picked, cut, squeezed, shared and eaten.

A couple of weeks ago, on the recent Monday public holiday, as my family and I were picking the latest batch of fruit from the trees and making enough traditional lemonade to quite literally last us the next decade of our lives, I had to stop for a moment and give thanks to the glory of God.

For I could see GOD’S WORK there in the yellow globes of fruit in our hands…

There we were, picking and cutting and juicing and cooking lemon after lemon after lemon. We had not bought them from a shop. We had not asked anyone to give them to us. Rather, we dumped a twig in the soil and God watered it with His rain, and nourished it with His nutrients, and grew it through His providence.

And though the trees are beautiful, their fruit is sour. I could see God in this too…

For few people eat a lemon straight off the tree. And I have been thinking about this fruit over the last few weeks, because it reminds me so much of our life here on Earth.

Our Earthly lives are beautiful. Each of us – no matter our Cross – witness the glory of a clear Summer’s day or the beauty of the sliver frost of a winter morning. Few would not laugh a the antics of a toddler, or cry tears of joy to see a family reunited. In short, our life here on Earth is as beautiful as the lemon trees – green and strong and supple. Just as He does for the trees, God provides for us too. Through the Grace of God, we somehow receive water and food and money and work and enough health to wake up each day of our Earthly lives – even on the days when it seems almost impossible to do!

And yet, though the trees look beautiful, the fruit they bear is sour. I see that sourness as the vices of sin. Greed, and lust and envy and a myriad of other terrible flaws that we expose as we live our lives. If we considered just those vices, they would be untenable and the world would be bitter. But – THANK GOD – God does not leave us alone. He gives us Grace, so that we can become virtuous.

With lemons, when the juice of the lemon is mixed with oil and salt, it makes a delicious salad dressing, or when it is mixed with sugar and water it makes scrumptious lemonade, or when it is mixed with butter and flour, it makes tasty cakes and slices. With us, when we add the habitual effort to practice virtue – chastity, patience, diligence, holiness – we can make our souls pleasing to God.

And so now, when I look at those lemons growing on the trees, I do not see only the beauty of the tree or the sourness of the fruit. Instead, I see the addition of salt or sugar or butter - I see the habitual virtues that draw us to holiness.

I see the things required to make the lemon palatable for us to eat. I see the things required to make the soul sweet for my Beloved.

And I give thanks for the Grace, that allows such an unfortunate sinner as I to have the opportunity and the honour, of attempting to be good – just so that I could somehow be pleasing to God.

My Lord and my God… What Glory is Your Holy Name!

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

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