Our parish mission is this week, and the theme is “The Life of Grace.” What does that even mean, and what is grace anyway? The Catechism of the Catholic Church has the following definition of grace in the glossary, “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, to 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 of life) are gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our Christian vocation.”
Grace is how God acts in our lives and in our souls. It is His free gift to us. We don’t deserve grace, because we don’t have any claim on God, but He gives it to us anyway. As the Lord says in the Gospel of Matthew, “That you may be children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust (5:45).” Grace comes first, and grace helps us to respond to our vocation, which simply means our call or purpose from God. That call or purpose is to become God’s adopted children. That is the Christian vocation, or call; it’s often called the “call to holiness.” We are called to be like Christ, children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ, but Christ is God, and we are not, so we need God’s help, His grace, to answer that call.
Sanctifying Grace is given in baptism and the sacraments. It is a habitual or stable grace, which means that it tends to stick around, and the only way to lose it is by committing mortal sin. Through it we share in God’s own life and become friends of God. It creates a supernatural disposition within us. We might say that someone has a disposition towards math, if they’re naturally good at math, or that someone has a natural disposition to creativity. This is a supernatural disposition which draws us towards God and enables us to act in the love of God.
Actual graces are the graces that God gives to everyone as a help or intervention. We receive many actual graces each day. It’s like a nudge or reminder from God. It could be something as profound as a call to conversion or repentance, and it can be as intimate as the desire to pray when I see the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on my office wall. A large part of living the Christian life is being upon to these nudges from the Holy Spirit and learning to cooperate with them.
In the mission we’ll talk about grace as it is lived out in the Christian life. The first evening, Monday, March 15, at 7:00 PM, “Only the Penitent Shall Pass,” will be on continuing conversion in our lives. The second evening, Tuesday, March 16, “Mary, Mother of the Eucharist,” will be on the Blessed Mother and the sacraments, focusing on the Eucharist, as the content of the Christian life. The third evening, Wednesday, March 17, “St. Joseph and the Mission of the Church,” will look at our call to support the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel and care for the poor.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.