Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grace: The Air Our Soul Breathes

Grace. What's the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the word 'grace'? Perhaps it's a childhood memory of giving thanks at the dinner table. Perhaps it's something you were told you'd get the day you made your first Confession. But sadly for many ... it invokes no more than the thought perhaps of an obscure acquaintance in grade school who had pigtails, freckles and shared our classroom.

We of course received grace when we were Baptized. Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders and the Sacrament of the Sick (Last Rites/Extreme Unction) all give Sanctifying Grace. We recall that the Sacraments are an outward sign instituted by Jesus to give us grace.
But what IS Grace exactly? Well, simply put, I think grace is God's infinite love which gives us a share in His Divine Life and permits the Holy Spirit to dwell in our souls. The supernatural LIFE that grace bestows also gives us supernatural power and strength to overcome temptation, love God more fully and keep His commandments.

When we call to mind GRACE, how can we not automatically see before us, in our minds eye, the one that was FULL OF GRACE? Mary ... a fully human being was "FULL OF GRACE". Our first impression of this phrase might be that she had a LOT of grace .... more than most for sure. But I believe the literal translation meant that 'her cup runneth over". It meant that she was so full of grace that no more would fit. Literally FULL of grace!

Now we can feel the difference a good Confession makes in lifting our spirit and filling our souls with joy. Many have experienced outpourings when lost in praise and adoration or deep prayer. Just consider for a brief moment what supernatural power and love filled her soul by having no capacity left for more grace! Our Glorious Triune God made sure that she had what she needed (as He does for all His children) to sustain her through the horrific Passion of her dear Son.

If not for abundant grace, being fully human, how COULD she EVER have endured it? It was written that she at the foot of the Cross never fainted. We know she shed tears and the swords piercing her Immaculate Heart were foretold, but without being FULL of GRACE, how could she have watched such a torturous ordeal? I'm not just talking about watching someone you love unjustly beaten, humiliated and put to death in the most vile manner possible. I'm talking about KNOWING He was the WORD made FLESH .. yes, her flesh ... and God, DIVINITY ITSELF! HOW, without grace, could she ever have kept her wits about her and not fly into an open rage?

Seriously, consider our Sorrowful Mother's thoughts and feelings when she initially found out Jesus was arrested. Was she watching as Pilot brought Him out bloody and beaten while the crowd screamed for His death? We know she met Him on the road to Calvary ... what strength could have kept her on her feet, let alone follow Him to Golgotha and stand for 3 hours as He shed every last drop of His Most Precious Blood for sinners that would mock and ridicule Him even thousands of years later?

If Mary was not FULL of GRACE, I do not believe she would have been able to even give her initial FIAT, let alone suffer all her sorrows. This gives us a better understanding of the supernatural power grace bestows on us. But the AMOUNT of grace is dependent on our RECEPTIVITY ... how we are pre disposed and open to receive.
Do the Sacraments always impart grace? Yes. Do they always impart the same amount of grace to every individual? Um, not so much.

The grace we receive (whether Sanctifying or sacramental) is directly proportional to our immediate state of grace and attitude. In other words ....
Two people receive Holy Communion.
One person just went to Confession and is in the state of grace and exuberant about receiving the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus.
Another person has no mortal sin, but perhaps some un-confessed venial sin and isn't so sure about the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, but attends Mass and receives more out of obligation than pure love.
It's very obvious which of the two will receive an abundance of grace .. .certainly it's the one in the state of grace lovingly anticipating Jesus coming into their soul. But they both receive grace.

Shouldn't we strive in this day and age to avail ourselves of God's good gifts as much as humanly possible? We need all the supernatural help we can get and as things progress, we will only need more and more. Unfortunately, there is no clear cut 'formula' to acquire such a precious gift. It IS a gift, just as is FAITH. But if we have love we will want to be as close to God as possible. We will be open to the leanings of the Holy Spirit and our guardian angels. We will want to be in the state of grace always and joyfully anticipate the Eucharist with unbridled awe and love. We will recognize the Sacrament of Penance as a most merciful joy and utter delight and not with trembling, fear and shame.

We as Catholics have the fullness of Faith. Jesus instituted SEVEN SACRAMENTS. He didn't do it because He wanted to be NICE. He did it to leave us a means that by which we may be strengthened during our sojourn here on earth. "For he that has much, much will be expected." So many of us have, for so long, taken the Sacraments for granted, or perhaps not even believing they confer strength and grace as we were taught. What will be worse: The non Catholic that has 2 Sacraments (Baptism & Marriage) and avails himself freely, or the Catholic that having access to not only the 7 Sacraments but a myriad of Sacramentals and devotions finds that he has better things to do with his time?

Time IS getting MUCH shorter now .... choose wisely!

So consider our Most Sorrowful Mother often, asking her to hold us in the mantle of her love recommending our poor hearts to her Divine Son who loves us from everlasting to everlasting. She helps us to realize the true value of grace and the Sacraments which bring us nearer to our Precious Lord while giving our poor souls all the strength and health it needs to fight the good fight while we still trod this valley of tears. We nourish our bodies which are no more than a speck of dust after a short time here, let us also nourish our souls which will enjoy the glory of God for all eternity.

3 comments:

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    "So consider our Most Sorrowful Mother often, asking her to hold us in the mantle of her love recommending our poor hearts to her Divine Son who loves us from everlasting to everlasting. She helps us to realize the true value of grace and the Sacraments which bring us nearer to our Precious Lord while giving our poor souls all the strength and health it needs to fight the good fight while we still trod this valley of tears"
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