• Sarah Raad


“God has promised you ‘forgiveness’, but He has not promised you ‘tomorrow’.” (Saint Augustine).

The Martyrdom of Eleazar the Scribe (Gustave Dore)

I have been reflecting on the Bible passage that recounts the story of the martyrdom of Elea’zar (2 Maccabees 6:18-31).

In the passage we are told of a wicked king who was trying to force Elea’zar “to eat swine’s flesh”, which was forbidden to him under Jewish Law (2 Maccabees 6:19). At one point in the story, we are told that Elea’zar was offered the chance to trick the king by pretending to eat pork, when in fact he would be eating his own approved meat. In response, Elea’zar said…

“‘Such pretence is not worthy of our time of life,’ he said, ‘lest many of the young should suppose that Elea′zar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretence, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws.” (2 Maccabees 6:24-28).

And I have been stuck on this idea of pretence since I first read this passage the other day. After all – I have so often reasoned to myself – God would surely forgive a soul for only PRETENDING to do wrong. Wouldn’t He? But I have pretended many many times myself.

When I was newly engaged to my husband and working in a corporate job, I was simply too embarrassed to explain that I did not live with my now-husband, and instead allowed them to infer that we lived together prior to our wedding. After all – I reasoned at the time – I am not doing anything wrong and I am only pretending so that nobody feels uncomfortable about their choices.

Now, I see that it was not the discomfort of others that I feared – but only my own…

After all, though I was only pretending to do the wrong thing just to fit in with all the rest, my pretence robbed those people of an example of my Catholic Faith… And being robbed of an example of Christ, who would they look to for their example?

I am Catholic. I am a daughter of the ALMIGHTY GOD. And GOD THE FATHER allowed the sacrifice of HIS PERFECT BELOVED SON – for me. And the PERFECT BELOVED SON feeds me of His Flesh and Blood and makes me His sister and gives me His HOLY MOTHER – QUEEN OF HEAVEN – out of LOVE for me. And the PERFECT INFINITE LOVE between the FATHER and the SON – the LIVING HOLY SPIRIT – descends to this broken world – just to lead me home…

And that means that I was not made to blend in. I was created to stand out…

And standing out means that people will look at me. People will judge me. People will ridicule me. But most importantly of all – people will SEE me!

And now I realise – with great sorrow – that all my years of pretending were a terrible abomination before the eyes of my Beloved. For I hid my talents under a bushel. And I fought the GRACE that He gave me.

And now, though I cannot stand up alone and I cannot stop pretending on my own – because I am not brave enough to do that, I can do ALL THINGS through HIS power.

Because God brings ALL things to the GOOD and uses all sacrifice for salvation… “When he (Elea’zar) was about to die under the blows, he groaned aloud and said: ‘It is clear to the Lord in His holy knowledge that, though I might have been saved from death, I am enduring terrible sufferings in my body under this beating, but in my soul I am glad to suffer these things because I fear Him.’ So in this way he died, leaving in his death an example of nobility and a memorial of courage, not only to the young but to the great body of his nation.” (2 Maccabees 6:30-31).

For Saint Gertrude the Great said, “Bodily and spiritual affliction are the surest sign of Divine predilection. Gratitude for suffering is a precious jewel for our heavenly crown… Man should always firmly believe that God sends just that trial which is most beneficial for him.”

And so now, as I take the courage provided through GRACE to step out into the light, I am reminded of the words of Saint Augustine and I do not wish to delay even a moment longer, for “God has promised you ‘forgiveness’, but He has not promised you ‘tomorrow’.”

And bearing that in mind – I have much work to do – to stop pretending once and for all…

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

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