What is grace, exactly? Is it one of those terms that is easier to define by stating what it is not? Is it even definable? Does one have to experience grace to know what it is?
Let me start by saying that I am not a person whom God whispers in the ear. I am the person whom God has to whack over the head with the Divine Whack-o-Matic, several times, before I get the picture.
Last night I re-read my post in which I mentioned the book some of us homeschooling moms are reading this spring, and that got me ruminating on grace. It came to my mind again last night during the pre-bedtime television, when Agent Jack Malone visited a young girl from whom he saved from a horrible kidnapping in an attempt to bring her the comfort and solace that three therapists and the girl’s mother had so far failed miserably to deliver. It popped up again this morning on my visits to the blogs in my blogroll….Abbot Joseph’s blog in particular. And then when I clicked on a couple of links on his blog, I got even more mental images added to the pot….all about grace.
The Baltimore Catechism defines grace: “Grace is a supernatural gift of God bestowed on us through the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation.” (Q. 109). The glossary in the CCC says: “The free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become His adopted children. As sanctifying grace, God shares His divine life and friendship with us in a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that enables the soul to live with God, at act by His love. as actual grace, God gives us the help to conform our lives to His will. Sacramental grace and special graces (charisms, the grace of one’s state on life) are gifts of the Holy Spirit to hel pus live out our Christian vocation (para. 1996, 2000; cf. 654).”
Well, that doesn’t help very much. Abbot Joseph quotes St. Paul that God’s grace “is sufficient” in our weakness. I can’t help but think that grace is probably something very much like divine WD-40: life works without it, but not very well. With it, things happen in ways you never dreamed of.
I need grace all the time. Without grace I’d never be able to run a business, raise three kids, homeschool them, help do a Latin co-op, assist with the Catholic homeschoolers’ group here in town, be a reader in my parish, be the parish sewing lady……you get the idea. Without grace I’d be cranky and irritable all the time; when I remember to pray and ask God for grace, things seem to take on their proper perspective.
Could grace be the effect of accepting God’s love for us? I mean, you have to be willing to be loved, warts and all, to admit that even in spite of those warts (or maybe because of them), you’re lovable? And the more you rest in that love, the more grace you receive and the more you can see what grace is. And the more grace you have, the more willing you are to be loved by God. And the more willing you are to be loved by God, the less you care what expression that love takes. A thorn in the flesh, like St. Paul? God’s grace is sufficient. Noisy neighbors who don’t seem to grasp the concept that there is more to life than beer and some people need 7 hours of quiet every night in order to function? God’s grace can get you through those draggy Mondays.
And of course the opposite must also be true. God whispers in your ear, “I love you, let Me help you through this” and you’re not feeling one teeny tiny bit lovable. So you cringe and mentally think “no, this is something I ought to be able to handle on my own, I don’t think I need to ask God’s help with EVERYTHING….” Well, DUH. Of course you need to ask God’s help with everything. And if you forget, and you get in a pickle, He’s right there, tapping on your shoulder, wanting to know if it would be OK if He contributed a bit of……Grace.
Grace to not munch on the cookies you bought for your kids. Grace to remember to pray. Grace to pray for the people who don’t like you (not that they will change, but that you will change and it won’t matter since God likes you and He is the #1 important Person whom you have to please). Grace to not scream at your kid when they do for the billionth time something you’ve told them not to do. Grace to remember that even badly celebrated Masses are still Masses. Grace to pray for priests, especially those who seem to have lost their Faith. Grace to pray that perhaps you could give one of your children to God as a priest or religious.
Back in the days before I really had a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my Lord God and Savior’ (to borrow a phrase from a Protestant relative who still wonders if I’m saved), I used to have hanging on my wall a saying by Confucius:
Our greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.
Grace is what makes us get up. One of the glories of God, to me, is that He created us with free will, and that even though it’s much easier physically to lie there and wallow in self-pity, many of us have that mental image of Christ on the Via Dolorosa, and we accept the helping hand of God’s grace and get up.
I can’t think of anything else to write, so I guess I’ve responded to the grace in sufficient manner. Pray that I never stop.