April 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 9
Grace is something we learned about in our catechisms and then proceeded to forget all about. But it is actually a very important item in the Catholic scheme of things for it has everything to do with God's presence in our lives.
By its definition, grace is the free and unmerited divine assistance given to us for our sanctification. The two words – free and unmerited – used to describe grace are extremely important for any understanding of what grace is; classic Christian thought teaches that no one can earn grace or salvation by his or her own merits. In other words, we cannot earn our own redemption; we have to depend on the redemption won for us by Jesus Christ. And Jesus' own saving action took place through his suffering and death.
Grace is free, yes, but the sad fact is that many people don't seem to want it or simply aren't aware that it is there for the asking. But the one stipulation God places on his divine assistance, which is what grace is, is that we have to choose to ask for and cooperate with God's grace. When a person cries out, "please God, help me" that is asking for God's assistance, for God's grace. But it is usually only in times of pain and suffering that we make such a request. Suffering, looked on in this way, can almost seem beneficial because it certainly makes us aware of God's presence and that his help and strength is there too.
Spiritual writers tell us that grace is everywhere. Everywhere? Well then, so is suffering. It doesn't take much to understand that there is a great deal of suffering in our world today B always has been. Though we might not like to admit it, the human condition is often miserable. And misery is another word for suffering. But suffering and grace seem to be bound together. If suffering is everywhere so is grace. Jesus, when he came to earth, plunged himself into this great big miserable world and experienced the suffering that accompanied it in order to redeem us. When you look at a cross and the image of Jesus hanging on it, you may wonder why it had to be this way. The only answer we keep coming up with, indeed, the only answer there is, is love. Jesus had a great deal of wickedness to absorb. But that is the way Christ redeemed us. If Christ's journey though life was the journey to Calvary, can a Christian really expect that his or her journey will be any different? It is here that we can begin to understand the connection between suffering and grace for grace doesn't't necessarily mean peace but, rather, the courage to bear the cross of human suffering.
God's love is all around us; we live in his love like fish live in the sea. But God's love is also very practical; we have only to look at the cross to understand how much God loves us: abundantly, beautifully, powerfully, and indeed divinely.
Being followers of Christ means a lot more than simply admiring him; it involves an actual sharing in his life, an actual participation in his destiny. We all have our journeys to Calvary to complete. If we believe that God is everywhere, then we must believe that grace is everywhere, too. And grace is not something static; it is active, it is dynamic, it is God's love.
We, as Christians, have a somewhat difficult position in society. And it isn't because we suffer; everyone suffers at one time or another. We have a difficult position in society because we are ambassadors of truth in a world of illusion. And because our world seems to be more of an illusion than ever dulling our sensitivities and our judgments, grace is more necessary than ever. Let us with confidence seek it form the Lord.
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