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  • Sarah Raad

Sneezing

“When you go to confession you unnail Jesus from the Cross.” (Saint John Vianney).

Removal of the Body of Jesus from the Cross

I recently had some rather major surgery. Thank God I came out of that surgery in much better shape than I went into it, but – even so – there was a period of time where I needed to recover…


Because of the nature of the surgery, I experienced most of the discomfort in my abdomen. And luckily for me, this was the first time that I had experienced this sort of discomfort in my life! And from the moment I woke up after the operation, I had in my mind the idea that I really had to do my best to prevent myself from sneezing or coughing!


I could simply imagine the pressure that a cough or a sneeze would put on the stitches in my abdomen, and it was truly more than I could handle. In fact, my greatest fear was a sneeze, and I consciously spent my time trying to avoid it with all my waking hours.


On the first day in the hospital after the surgery, I got a small tickle in my throat and my nose. I was not allowed to eat yet, so I sipped my water all day long – just trying to wash it away. And sure enough, with calm deep breathing and a very focused effort, I managed to avoid the sneeze!


On the second day, my diet was kept very light and again for each tickle at the back of my throat I reached for the water. My husband was able to visit that day, and he told me to hold me finger under my nose to stop the sneeze. And yes. I tried that too! And yes, for yet another day, that seemed to work!


And then as the days went by, I was able to chew gum and eat a little. And so, I took it slowly. I kept my meals light and kept that gum on hand. I had a packet of barley sugar and I happily used those too. And slowly and surely the days passed without more than a threat of a sneeze…


And this pattern continued for the days of my recovery – while I was still in hospital and then after I returned home.


And then, at about 6:30pm on a Sunday night – exactly day 9 after my surgery – after I had already gone to bed for the night (and before you laugh – I was very sleepy following that surgery so I slept very early indeed), I finally actually sneezed.


It was quick, unexpected and when it was over it did indeed hurt me for a minute or two… Some might even say that my entire life flashed before my eyes during those few short moments…


And I have been reflecting on this sneezing over the last few months as I finalise my recovery…

You see that sneeze is like my death. For Christ said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in Heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36).

And though I rail against death – as I railed against my sneezing – there is really nothing I could do to prevent it – not in the end… And this single realisation is the truth – a truth that our fallen world tries to deny with all the lures of the Evil One who convinces us that this world is the only one…


But as Saint Maximilian Kolbe said, “No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.” For God is TRUTH and the truth is the truth is the truth – even if nobody believes it. And a lie is a lie is a lie – even if everybody believes it…


This is because as Saint Augustine told us, “God had one Son on Earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” And it is in OUR POWER to alleviate His suffering… It is in MINE – and in yours too!


How?


Not by DENYING death as I try to do – that is for sure… But by PREPARING for it!


Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska wrote in her Diary of an elderly nun in the convent who was close to death. When the Saint asked the old nun whether she was prepared for death, the old nun replied, that she had been preparing for her death for the whole of her life…


And the best way to prepare for death is through RECONCILIATION. Saint John Vianney said, “When you go to confession you unnail Jesus from the Cross.”


I have thought of this beautiful revelation often in the last few days…


Because there is nothing that I would not do to unnail my Beloved from the Cross…


And so, I take courage from the example of Saint Thomas Aquinas, to whom Our Lord crucified spoke in a vision, “You have spoken well of me, Thomas, what should be your reward??... Saint Thomas replied… “Nil nisi te, Domine.” (“Nothing but you, O Lord.”).


And so, I dare to pray… “Nothing but You, O Lord… Nothing but You!”


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

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