The Power of Grace
What is grace? Grace is the “free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become His adopted children” (Catechism, Glossary). Grace is a free and undeserved gift that God gives to all of us and, in fact, to all people. God gives graces to everyone, Christians, non-Christians, atheists, even people who’ve never heard of Him and people who’ve explicitly rejected Him. Grace is like God knocking on the door, inviting us into a relationship with Him, inspiring and motivating us to do good, and calling us to repentance and conversion. However, we still have to respond to that grace, to answer the invitation.
One type of grace is called actual grace, which is when God disposes or moves us for doing or receiving something. For example, when I pass a homeless person on the street I may be moved to do something for them, when I see a beautiful image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and am moved to prayer, or when the voice of conscience convicts me of some sin and moves me to repentance; these are all actual graces and examples of God acting within our minds and souls. When we respond to an actual grace we open ourselves up to more grace, but when we deny that grace and turn away we cut off that line of grace, not because God doesn’t want to give them, but because we’ve wasted the opportunity to get them.
There are some graces that you will get no matter what, but there are other graces that you will only get if you pray for them and make yourself ready to receive them. This is why we must be persistent in prayer, praying many times for the same things. God already knows what we need, but we are often not yet ready to receive it. Through prayer we expand our hearts, grow in love for God, and increase our desire to receive, not merely what we want, but what God wants to give us. When you pray for grace be confident, knowing that God loves you, but humble, willing to receive whatever He wants to give and to follow it.
More than just moving us to good acts and helping keep us from sin, actual graces also prepare us to receive sanctifying grace, through which God shares His Divine life and friendship with us. Sanctifying grace allows us to participate in the very nature of God. Unlike actual grace, which is given for a specific purpose or moment, sanctifying grace tends to stay with us. It’s like peanut butter, it sticks to us and stays put, but we can get rid of it if we try. The effects of sanctifying grace are described well in this passage from St. Paul, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rm. 8:15-17).
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.