WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES GRACE MAKE?


Grace is the beginning and end of our life in Christ; the heart, soul and lifeblood of the Catholic Faith. So it is no wonder that so many Catholics consider their religion a burden-they have never understood the beauty and power of God's grace.

Grace casts our faith into a beautiful, glorious light-the light in which it is meant to be seen. Catholics who appreciate God's grace see Baptism not merely as a safeguard against a possible eternity in Limbo, but as a new birth which makes one a partaker in the divine nature! The Eucharist is to them an awesome encounter with the Uncreated Grace Who is Jesus Christ; by whom we partake of His Divinity as he shared in our humanity. Confession is not a humiliating, burdensome ritual but an opportunity to be "re-divinized", so to speak, to be re-infused with the very Life of God after committing a serious sin.

The thought that God has actually given me a share in His very own Nature and desires to ultimately divinize me inspires wonder, joy and gratitude in my heart. It has changed my whole attitude toward my faith; I have found that being a Catholic does not mean just observing a bunch of do's and (mostly) don'ts; it is a friendship with God from Whom I can draw the strength to do good, avoid evil, and progress from glory to glory until I, God willing, become like Christ, seeing Him "as He is".

Some Suggestions for "Growing in Grace"

If you are a Catholic and are conscious of having committed serious (mortal) sins, the Sacrament of Penance will restore sanctifying grace to your soul. Remember that God is calling you to repentance, and that the desire to repent is itself and actual grace from Him. Don't worry about your "feelings", just by faith choose to cooperate with God's grace by confessing your sins to a priest.

If you have received absolution, you have sanctifying grace in your soul. The Blessed Trinity dwells within you; God offers you the grace to pray to Him right now. Cooperate with that grace, ask the Lord to draw you closer to Himself and to increase in your heart a love for Himself and esteem for His grace.

There is an old prayer which goes, "O my God, grant that I would rather die than commit one mortal sin". This is actually a prayer to cherish Grace, since mortal sin destroys sanctifying grace. Try praying this prayer or one like it, such as "O God, grant that I may cherish your grace above all else".

If you struggle with sin, even habitual sin, grace can help you overcome it. If temptations beset you, grace is your strength to resist them. You can do all things by the grace of Christ Who strengthens you in your weakness (2 Co 12:9; Phil 4:13). When tempted, approach His "throne of grace" in prayer (He 4:16) and ask for the actual grace to resist the temptation. God is more than willing to grant it (I Co 10:13).

Whenever we receive the Sacraments, they draw us closer to God, give us strength against sin and aid our divinization. While the priest mingles the water and wine at the Offertory, I like to meditate on his words "By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity"(1). I reflect that the water symbolizes humanity-my humanity in particular-and that the wine signifies divinity, and that Jesus wishes to imbue me with His Divine Nature. When I get ready to receive the Blessed Sacrament I think about Symeon Metaphrastes' words: "The Body of God deifies and nourishes me". Sometimes, as a private devotion to our Eucharistic Lord, I like to pray a modified version of the Anima Christi:

Body of Christ, save me;
Blood of Christ, cleanse me;
Soul of Christ, sanctify me;
Divinity of Christ, divinize me.

Sacramentals can also be channels for grace when used devoutly; I like to recall this whenever I use them. When I enter a church and bless myself with holy water while bowing to the altar, I ask God to fill me with the graces I need. When I wear a medal, say the Rosary, or make any other use of sacramentals, I do not look upon them as having any power in themselves (which would be superstition), but I see them as material items which Christ uses to draw me closer to Himself by grace.

Of course, these are all my private devotions; they may help you, they may not. I encourage you in your walk with the Lord to see what makes you more aware and appreciative of Divine Grace. I pray that you, too, may discover in your own life how "amazing" grace really is!


WORK CITED

1. Translation of the Order of Mass, (c) 1973 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).


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