• Sarah Raad


The barrenness of isolation and the desert of despair can do much good for the whole world, if we can allow God to work His wonders through us!

Beheading of John the Baptist (Caravaggio)

Over the last few days, I have been praying for a myriad of intentions. A relative of my husband died overseas of complications caused by corona virus two days ago. None of her five children or grandchildren (or any other family or friends) buried her or attended her funeral. No priest anointed her or visited her before her death. They were not allowed in. Neither were her family. She died in a hospital room alone. Her body was removed from that room to the morgue to the grave and buried without ceremony to control the spread of a disease already out of control in so many parts of the world. May God rest her Soul.

In praying for this woman, I have come to realise that although she died alone – she was surrounded – by the lonely and the vulnerable and the sick and the weak. And with the advent of this terrible pandemic, a far greater threat has emerged than the threat to our physical health – and that is the threat to our humanity!

These days, beloved family members are isolated and alone – for their own protection – inside their homes and nursing homes and hospitals. For their physical protection, and so that the strong do not contaminate the weak, we are leaving them alone.

Our parents and grandparents are living their last years of life, alone and unvisited in nursing homes and homes – alone not out of neglect – but from deep love for them – and yet many of them are lonely and unhappy.

Singletons, who are seeking life-mates, or partners, or friends, are restricted from social interactions – not out of neglect – but from a deep love for them – and many of them are lonely and unhappy.

Families that join annually, or biannually, cannot travel to see each other, and there is great grief in that too.

Though the virus is the ostensible problem here – the true disease of this pandemic is the utter lonely hopelessness and fear caused by social displacement, which has triggered a global epidemic of loneliness!

With this virus, the world has become a desert – a lonely, sad, barren desert. And yet, God has shown us many times what greatness He can forge using His anvil in a barren desert…

When the Israelites, being freed from Egypt through Moses, fell to worshipping false idols, God forged their strength and fortitude on the anvil of the desert as they wandered there for forty years.

When John the Baptist needed to prepare for his life of Prophesy, he went into the desert, eating wild honey and locusts while fasting and making sacrifices.

Then there was Christ, who went into the desert for forty days and forty nights (perhaps in reflection of the Exodus of the people of Israel) in preparation for His public ministry. There, in the solitude, and the loneliness, the Evil One tempted Him – insidiously using the quiet to try to distract Him from prayer.

And yet…

The Israelites emerged triumphant in the Promised Land.

John emerged to prepare a way for the Lord.

And Christ – our beautiful, blessed, glorious Christ – emerged to suffer and die for US – for LOVE OF US! Undeterred by temptation. United, through the mystery of the Trinity, to God in prayer!

These chosen ones, these great examples for us, emerged from the barrenness of the desert as “a voice which cries out in the wilderness”!

Now, beneath my mask – during this time of physical, psychological and spiritual isolation – it could be my voice crying out in the wilderness – perhaps your voice could join mine?

Now beneath our masks, our lips could be proclaiming the good news of the Lord. And though we, like John the Baptist, may not be fit to untie the sandal of the One who went before us to save us, perhaps we can still do some good.

Perhaps, beneath our masks, we can make ourselves into small, useless vacuums of glass, stuck on a ceiling, unable to move or change, unable even to control whether we are of use or not. Perhaps, we could open ourselves to the Glorious Goodness of God, and perhaps, then and only then, would we be able to be filled with the light of Grace. Because then, and only then, through no merit of our own, could be of some use to God. Then, He could use us, during this terrible time of darkness, to illuminate the whole world!

And in this way, a tiny almost invisible threat to our humanity could be used by our Infinite almost invisible Saviour of Humanity – God.

For through great evil, will God work His will, which is only infinite mercy, love and forgiveness.

And then, and only then, beneath the masks, while we are alone, afraid and isolated, we really will become a people of darkness, who have seen a great light.

For with grace, everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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