• Sarah Raad


“Jesus left us with something to do. He left us not simply with a ready-made, gift-wrapped salvation…” (Scott Hahn, “Signs of Life”).

The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen (who forgave Saint Paul with his dying breath)

When I was a little girl, my mother made sure that she taught all her children what she expected of them. To be honest, though she had eight children, my mother ran our family with military precision – lunches were always made, schoolbooks were always covered, homework was always done – no excuses!

I will never forget the way that my mother taught me to neatly address an envelope when I was quite a little girl. Firstly, she asked me to address the envelope that I was using to post a letter and bring it to her to show her when I was done. Then when I showed it to her, she ripped it up and told me it was too messy and needed to be re-done, well that shocked me… But there I went and tried a second time – not making too much more effort than I had the first time. And again, I was shocked when my mother ripped up my work that second time and sent me to try again. This activity was repeated what felt like a million times – though with hindsight I know was surely less than six – until at last I applied myself with an adequate amount of enthusiasm to ensure that the task was done to my mother’s satisfaction. To this day, I am very careful to address envelopes neatly…

Now, it may appear from the story that my mother was a merciless dictator – after all, I was quite young when I was performing that task and who really cares about envelopes anyway? But she was not! After all, if I had sent the original envelope (or few) that I had addressed, there was a significant risk that my letter would have been lost in the mail because it was impossible to read the address on the envelope. You see, there was method in her madness, though it took me a little time – and a surrender of my pride – to understand that…

I adopt the same approach with my children, wherever I can. I like to have all the beds in the house fixed each morning after we wake up. I like walking into a bedroom and having the beds neat and tidy, and besides – this was another of my mother’s rules when I was a little girl, and I cannot imagine what she would ever think if she ever saw an un-fixed bed in my home (not that she goes through bedrooms – but one can always imagine)!

Now, if I were responsible for fixing all the beds myself, it would be quite unfair – after all I only sleep in one of them and besides, if I did all the work, my children would learn nothing. And so it is that I ask each child to fix their own bed when they get out of it each day.

In the beginning they did a truly terrible job. After all – they probably reasoned – if we do this badly enough, perhaps she will give up and leave us alone. But of course – being my mother’s daughter – I persevered… These days, the children mostly do their best in fixing those beds, and the months and years of returning them to the task at hand have mostly paid off.

I have been thinking about this repetition over the last few days… There is an old saying that it is a sign of insanity to repeat the same action without change, expecting a different result. There is some point in this…

I have been reflecting about all the times I have faced the exact same trial in my own life – over and again facing the same heartbreak the same misunderstanding and the same hurt. I have long ago stopped believing in coincidences. And so, it occurs to me that when God allows the same things to torment us repeatedly, it is because He wishes to teach us something…

I consider the words of the English Christian writer, C.S. Lewis, “To be a Christian means to forgive the unforgivable in others because God has forgiven the unforgivable in you.”

Perhaps this is the lesson that God wishes for me to learn well. After all, it is terribly difficult to chose to forgive. The action – I have found – is easy. You simply say the words, “I forgive you.” Nothing tricky about it… But it is the DECISION to forgive that is so difficult…

In that difficulty, I turn to the words of Saint Mary of the Cross Mackillop, who said, “Whatever troubles are before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom it is you are trying to follow.”

In Scott Hahn’ book, “Signs of Life”, he says, “Jesus left us with something to do. He left us not simply with a ready-made, gift-wrapped salvation, with all our questions answered and all our suffering ceased. Instead, he bid us to follow him along a road—a narrow road, to a narrow gate—in a great adventure. His road leads us to glory, but only by way of Calvary. We don’t really know what awaits us around the next bend in the road; but we know that God is with us and he will answer us when we ask, seek, and knock—as we pray in the old accustomed ways. All our lives, we are on pilgrimage.”

And in this way, we can follow God’s directive to Saint Faustina, when He told her in her Diary 1577, “Tell souls not to place within their own hearts obstacles to My mercy, which so greatly wants to act within them. My mercy works in all those hearts which open their doors to it. Both the sinner and the righteous person have need of My mercy. Conversion, as well as perseverance, is a grace of My mercy.”

Oh my Lord and my God, please repeat for me the trials from which I can learn to persevere, for it is only through such a perseverance that I shall be able to follow You…

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

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