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  • Sarah Raad

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“‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’” (John 11:21-22).

Tree of Life and Death (Berthold Furtmeyr)

I have been reflecting very much over the last few days about the Mysteries of our Faith. After all, there are so many big Mysteries of our Faith – like the Blessed Trinity and the Resurrection of the Body and the Sacred Eucharist and the simultaneous Humanity and Divinity of Christ – but those are not the mysteries that have consumed me over the last few days…


I am afraid that I have been fixated with very different sorts of mysteries instead. I have been fixated with the mystery of the timing of the very mundane actualities of my life. For example, I was wondering why things happened when they did and not when I really wanted them to.


Sometimes, I can see the benefit of that timing because it is very clear. I remember a teacher at school when I was a little girl telling me that she had missed her train by mere seconds on the day of the Granville Train disaster of 18 January 1977. She told me that though she had been so annoyed to see that train driving away as she rushed breathlessly down the platform steps, after dumping her token in the turnstile, she had soon realised that missing that train was the only thing that saved her life – she usually sat in the affected carriage…


Other times, we cannot see the benefit of the delay. It is in those times that I often feel most tried and most pressed in my faith. Like Martha, I rush out to Greet Christ, “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘If You had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:21). That sounds like a terrible accusation and one that I have been guilty of many many times in the past. I would almost feel comforted to know that my accusation was the same as Martha’s… except Martha adds – with her very next breath – “‘But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’” (John 11:22). This is staggering, confronting and strange…


Such was Martha’s faith that even when faced with permanent, final death and even when confronted with what appeared to be neglect, she could turn to that Beloved Face and declare, “‘But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’” (John 11:22).


It is this unwavering faith that has consumed my mind over the last days and weeks. What is that? Where can I get it? How could it look in my life?


I was reflecting on such faith when I encountered some beautiful words of Saint John Chrysostom, who was an early Church father who died in 407AD.

Saint John Chrysostom told us that God has used the Evil One’s weapons to save us from the Evil One… It is a beautiful paradox…

After all, what tools did the Evil One use to cause the fall of humankind? He used a Virgin, a Tree and Death…


The VIRGIN was Eve – who was innocent in the Garden of Eden and did not understand her own nakedness until after Original Sin. This is how we know that she was a virginal child who did not understand sex or lust and therefore did nothing to protect her modesty because in that Garden of Eden, before the fall of mankind nobody thought of sex or lust. How ironic – that was God’s plan for creation – a world that we can barely imagine living in this promiscuous world of sin where we troll through social media to be confronted by celebrities in various stages of undress…


The TREE was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Often in artworks, this is represented as an apple tree and we are shown images of Eve eating an apple or a pear or something of that nature; but this is probably not the case. Most likely, there was some kind of fruit on the tree, but it was the action and not the fruit that is the issue. I have recently been reading the “Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska” and it is an intriguing text, because during her lifetime of encounters with Christ she was often commanded by Christ to ask permission of her supervisors and/or confessors to do certain things – and they very often told her NO. And yet, Christ was clear in His interactions with the Saint – it is not the achievement or the result that He values – but the effort to obey. It was the disobedience that banished us from the Garden – it is through obedience that we can atone for that pride.


And then, there is the final tool of the Evil One, which is DEATH. For there was no death prior to the fall of humankind – there was only eternal life. We were to live in the Garden of Eden and then, at the end of our Earthly lives, be assumed into Heaven without pain, loss or grief. It is for this reason that we grieve so terribly for those who have gone before us – even when we have faith that they are redeemed and saved and awaiting us in Paradise… Because death – though assured for every living creature in this world – is not natural, because it was not a natural part of creation, because we were created as an infinite act of love and mercy – for LIFE, not DEATH.


Saint John Chrysostom said, “These tokens of our demise (the virgin, tree and death) have now become tokens of our victory. Instead of Eve there was Mary; instead of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the wood of the Cross; instead of Adam’s death, the Death of Christ.”

These things – this victory – took time… eons of time. But look at the beauty of that victory – The Ever Virgin, the Cross and the Resurrection…

I must learn to keep that firmly in my mind the next time I encounter a mystery through my misunderstanding of God’s timing…


My Lord and my God, make me Martha, give me the strength to say – even after the world has lost all hope – “‘But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.’” (John 11:22)…


For what greater token of faith, could I ever possibly offer to You than that?


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

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