The word, “Grace” has been on my mind lately. Maybe it is the result of a fruitful Lenten season for me, or the fact that the Easter season is upon us, I am not sure. I don’t think I’ve ever really taken the time to reflect on what the word, “Grace” really means in my life. Many letters from St. Paul often begin with the salutation, ” May the Grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ be with you, ” or we hear something similar during Mass; however, most of the time, those words just went in one ear and out the other, without ever truly understanding their meaning.
The Catechism of the Catholic church says, ” Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives to us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” (CCC 1996) We can do nothing, on our own, to merit this grace. It is a total gift from God. When we chose to receive this grace we grow in our journey to know and love God more fully. There are two types of grace that help us on this journey: Sanctifying Grace and Actual Grace.
The most important type of grace for our Salvation is called Sanctifying Grace. This is the grace we receive at Baptism which is supernatural. This gift, God freely gives to us through the Sacraments, infuses the Holy Spirit into our souls to heal it from original sin so that we may be able to live in the way God calls us to live and act with the love of God in all things. We are infused with this Grace when we participate with the Sacraments that are available within the Catholic Church and it stays with us for eternity. So many Graces are available to us, it is amazing how many people don’t take advantage of such things as reconciliation, confirmation, and most especially, the Eucharist. Each time we participate in a Sacrament, God’s graces are given to us so that we may grow in the love and knowledge of Our Lord. We incorporate the gift of Grace through faith and live out those gifts through Holy Spirit in those things we do for others. The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a little different than the other Sacraments, in that, having a marriage that is recognized by the Catholic Church as valid, holy and Sacramental, blesses the couple with supernatural graces that will be of help in times of challenge, a source of comfort in times of sorrow, and helps the couple grow in love for one another.
The second type of grace called, “Actual Grace” occurs most often during times of immediate need. It is a grace which God disposes upon a person during a time of prayer, or at a particular moment in time, and it does not last. It is more of an instantaneous type of grace that prompts you to act upon it. Once you receive this grace and act upon it, it disappears. While this type of grace is fleeting, we can become more aware of this type of grace the more we open ourselves to it by quieting our minds and soul, responding to, and recognizing when we have this “prompting” by the Holy Spirit within us.
I’ve recently learned that when we allow graces to fill us, we have less of a chance to sin. For instance, if we ask for the grace of forgiveness, the more we are able to forgive and not harbor resentment and unforgiveness toward another. As the Angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the salutation, ” Hail full of Grace, ” we have to understand that if someone is “full of grace” they cannot have within them any stain of sin. We only know of two people that were without sin, Jesus and his Blessed Mother.
During the Passion of Our Lord, He freely gave himself as an offering to God, as “justification for the remission of sins, sanctification, and the renewal of the inner man.” (CCC 2019) Jesus was always without sin. He never took our sin upon himself to “cover our sins with his blood” as so many Protestants like to believe. The offering of Jesus, the God-Man, who was without sin, on our behalf, was meritorious in itself and justified before God for our Salvation.
God so loves us that we only need to ask for His Graces which he so freely wants to bestow upon us. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifestations of God’s graces and include: wisdom, understanding, good counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear/wonder of the Lord. With these gifts, along with the virtues of faith, hope and charity, we can do the will of God and live a good, moral life and be an example to others.
During this Easter season, let us remember the true meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. May we empty ourselves of the “clutter” of our minds, sit in silence and prayer so we may hear the voice of Our Lord that comes to us in a whisper. May we also be not afraid to act upon the Grace which the Holy Spirit desires of us and be more of an example of Christ’s love for us through our actions.