APPRECIATING THE PRECIOUS GIFT OF OUR FAITH series for Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Actual Grace part one
The case of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most wonderful instances of cooperation with God's grace. Saul of Tarsus was one of the most active persecutors of the early Christians. On the way to Damascus to arrest Christians, Saul was struck down by a brilliant light, and heard a voice say: "Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute Me?" Saul asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And Jesus answered, "I am Jesus, Whom Thou art persecuting." Saul immediately grasped at grace, and asked, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?" From then on he turned his back on his former life, and belonged completely to Christ, till as the incomparable Apostle Paul he was martyred in Rome.
Actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our minds and strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil. By actual grace the Holy Spirit shows us the emptiness in themselves of earthly things. He makes us see our own sins, and the true goal of life. By it we can perform a virtuous act or reject a temptation.
Actual grace is transient; that is, it is given to us only when we need it, to perform a good act, or to overcome a temptation. An example of the wonderful action of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the mind and strengthening the will is the First Pentecost. Before the descent of the Advocate, the Apostles were ignorant and afraid; after His descent, His grace made them wise and fearless men, going forth to preach Christ everywhere, ready to die for their faith.
God gives us always sufficient grace to be saved. A true Christian should view his whole life in the light of grace. All God's gifts granted for man's salvation are graces. A good family, a good education,--these are graces. But even sickness and hardships are God's graces, and may be the steps by which to ascend to heaven. And God grants graces to protect us against temptation, never suffering us to be tempted beyond our strength. If we do our part, avoid the occasions of sin, and cooperate with His graces, we shall win. Actual grace is necessary for all who have attained the use of reason, because without it we cannot long resist the power of temptation, nor perform other actions which merit a reward in heaven.
We all need actual grace. Sinners need it to rise from sin. The just need it to persevere in good. Without grace, we fall into sin. Herod was offered actual grace when he heard of the birth of the Messiah from the three wise men; but Herod rejected the grace, and added to his sins.
Grace is given to all men, although not in equal amounts. Some receive more, some less. Some ordinary graces are granted to all men; certain extraordinary graces are granted to chosen ones. God is free to bestow His gifts as He likes. The Blessed Virgin Mary received more than other mortals. Christians receive more than pagans. Those in the state of grace are likely to receive more than those in the state of mortal sin. In a way, our graces depend also on our dispositions. If we are faithful in corresponding with what we get, we receive more abundantly. Often our carelessness and indifference turn away God's graces from us. We reject Him who only wishes to make us saints, whose "delight is to be with the children of men" (Proverbs 8:31).
The principal ways of obtaining grace are prayer and the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.
The sacraments of Baptism and Penance give grace to those not possessing it; the other sacraments increase grace in those already in the state of grace.
Tomorrow, May 31st: Actual Grace part two