Grace

18th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, In the year 1604 in Belgium, there were two students who lived a life of sin. One night, in the midst of their evil ways, one of them, named Richard, decided to go home. As he was about to get in bed, he remembered that he had not said his usual 3 Hail Marys, as was his custom since his youth, and so he did – and went to sleep. He was suddenly awakened by a violent knocking, and through the closed door came his friend from that night, deformed and hideous, his body of flame.
.
Who are you? Richard cried in terror, you seem to be like a devil. The unfortunate creature exclaimed, I am your friend, I am damned. I was killed last night in the street and my soul is in hell. You too were doomed, but your prayers preserved you. He then disappeared.
.
Richard fell on the floor, thanked Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin, and vowed to change his life. Knowing that he had received a great grace, he acted – he became a missionary; he went to Mexico, and then studied in the Philippines in Cebu, where he was ordained a priest. In 1613 he went to Japan where Catholics were being martyred by Buddhists. On September 10, 1622, Richard was martyred in Nagasaki, Japan, tortured by slow burning in fire. A hero for the Faith, Richard of St. Anne, in 1867, was declared Blessed by the Church.
.
A question for us to consider today is, in God’s plan, why was it that one of these men was damned, and the other became a great witness for Christ? The mystery of all of this is the mystery of grace and free-will. Today in the Epsitle, St. Paul says, ‘I give thanks to God always for you, for the grace of God that is given you in Jesus Christ. ‘By it, he says, in all things you are made rich in Him; nothing is wanting to you in any grace.
.
Although many categories of grace exist, the two main types of grace are Actual grace and Sanctifying grace. Now Actual graces, are all those supernatural helps that we get from God. These can be promptings to do the right thing, sudden insights, or glimpses of God’s hand in our life. An Actual grace could be a sudden prompting with guilt for a sin, or an impulse moving us to confess. Anything that is a special intervention by God – and we often notice them – to bring us either away from sin or another step toward holiness. A priest hears about these often, because people will often notice God acting, in some specific way.
.
The thing about grace however, is that it is a help, a gift, offered to us. Grace waits for our free will, and sometimes courage – to follow. God gives every person sufficient grace – sufficient opportunities – to be saved; but we must act on these graces. In the case of Richard’s friend, for sure God gave him opportunities in his life to follow grace, but he rejected them and became hardened in his sin, silencing his conscience.
.
Blessed Richard himself, at least responded to grace sometimes; for example, he was given the thought, ‘I should say my prayers before bed.’ And it sounds as if he at least had not given that up. Now while God gives everyone sufficient grace to be saved, he pours untold graces on certain individuals. Once Richard began cooperating with God’s grace, look what the Lord did with him! – And this is the spiritual life; listening and responding to God’s invitations.
.
In the gospel today, there is this sick man that Jesus not only healed, but forgave his sins – can there be a greater Actual grace, than to have the Son of God heal you and forgive you!? Yet some, in Christ’s day, by their hardness of heart, rejected grace.
.
Actual graces can be external or internal. A person who is troubled, not knowing where to turn – is handed a book seemingly at random by a friend – he is changed. An external grace. A mother knows she must speak to her daughter about something difficult – and suddenly finds the words and courage to say it – an internal grace.
.
Actual graces are one of the major types of grace; these are the helps to our spiritual growth, either internal or external. But the goal of all these helps from God is the other type of grace: Sanctifying grace. This grace is with the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes us holy, that makes us pleasing to God. This is the grace we receive at conversion, at baptism, in the sacraments, in justification.
.
But grace is not a fluid or a gas; if we think of Jesus, who unites in himself, God and Man, Divinity and Humanity – if we think of Christ, ‘Divinizing’ humanity, his Mystical Body – then Sanctifying grace is the divinization of man, it is making us like-to-God, uniting us with God through Jesus.
.
We cannot have a union with God if we are not like God. A cat can have no ‘relationship’ with a plant. A woman cannot marry her dog or have a romantic relationship with an animal. For a human creature to have a relationship with God – well, this would normally be ridiculous, we are so very different from God! But sanctifying grace begins to divinize us, to make us like God, so that it is possible to enter an intimate union with Him.
.
Sanctifying grace therefore, is nothing else than the divine life which flows from Christ into us. Father Emile Mersch says, that as the body is in the process of formation here on earth, it’s divinization is also in formation. Therefore it must include the power of formation and growth – analogous to Actual graces – and an initial level of life that must increase, analogous to sanctifying grace.
.
As we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ, it is God’s will that divinization would flow from Christ to the whole body, that is ourselves. If we wish to grow in the likeness of Christ, we must therefore act on each Actual grace that is offered to us.
.
Mary is called the universal channel of grace. St. Peter Damien calls her ‘the Treasurer of divine graces.’ Let us then invoke this Mother often. We can pray 3 Hail Mary’s before bed, or call on her anytime, to obtain every heavenly help and grace from Christ her Son.

.

[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton]

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation