Saturday, September 05, 2015

Who Can Take the Grace of God From Us?

“Just as the action of one and the same water acts differently on the earth, air, and sun, according to the nature of each, producing wine in the vine and oil in the olive tree, so does one and the same grace profit each person according to his needs.” St. John Damascene, 2nd Homily on the Assumption. Available here on Audiobook

Grace is what sustains us, what allows us to have good thoughts, good desires, and good deeds. To grow in grace is to have greater favor with God. Grace is what allowed St. John the Baptist to subsist on locusts and honey, for the Virgin Mary to remain spotless from all sin, for St. Laurence to jest even on the gridiron, and for St. Thomas to write the Summa. Grace was made manifest in them in different ways, according to their needs and God’s plan.

St. Thomas did not subsist on locusts and honey, yet who would say that he was not a great vessel of grace and friend of God? This is an important consideration when seeking after perfection, that the grace which we hope and labor for will be apportioned to us according to our nature. What do I mean by nature that which is necessary for us to fulfill the labors which God has put in front of us this day, and to grow in such a manner as to yield greater fruit and be given greater tasks for the honor and Glory of God in the future . 

“If a holy exercise be sometimes omitted for the sake of some act of piety, or of some brotherly kindness, it can easily be taken up afterwards; but if it be neglected through distaste or slothfulness, then it is sinful, and the mischief will be felt.” Imitation of Christ, Book One, Of the Exercises of a Religious Man 

To receive the fullness grace one must not be only doing the right things, but must also be doing them for the right reason, at the right time, and in the right manner. Please note that I said the fullness of grace. If through neglect a person omitted saying the Rosary which they normally say before dinner in order to make time for personal amusement, they may still receive grace by saying it before bed, but perhaps not the fullness of Grace by saying it in the time and manner which they are accustomed. 

It is more important that we seek after doing the good and acceptable will of God than even choosing things that, in and of themselves, exteriorly seem more pleasing when isolated in and of themselves. The Mass, for example, is an inexhaustible source of grace, but it only benefits us in proportion to our disposition to receive grace while in attendance at its celebration. It would seem more pleasing to hear Mass twice on a Sunday in and of itself, but such an exercise could be a hindrance to grace if to do so meant the neglect of small children, the abandonment of spiritual reading, and so on. It does not mean that to hear Mass twice will not lead to more grace, but that the fullness of grace is only received when these activities are in harmony with God’s will.  Hearing a second Mass may not lead to the reward or benefit that the attentive patient care of little children might lead to depending on circumstances.  

This is where great strife comes, because being aware of our own weaknesses and inclinations we cannot trust that an impulse always comes from grace. To counter this problem, the spiritual masters have written about the importance of religious obedience to a superior or spiritual director, and to that we add the importance of reading the works of the spiritual masters and lives of the Saints, following a trusted rule of life, and performing the Ignatian exercises. 

These ideas, such as the need for a spiritual director, are often times advances not only as something good but as something absolutely necessary. Dare I say many admonishments from the Saints on this point can even make people anxious to find a director, even to the point of possibly of picking one that is bad for them rather than good.

Ultimately, our greatest need is the Grace of God; not all of us have at our disposal the same means to it, but it is one grace that rather manifests its fruition in holy living and the perfecting of every good work.  Our greatest obstacle to this grace is our own sinfulness, weakness, and stubbornness.

One day in the near future, the public worship might be taken away from us, our Holy Bible may be made illegal or be prohibited from citing in public because it is too offensive, and anything in between. Yet, the government cannot outlaw grace, and in the future they may produce those circumstances in which we can obtain from God His favor in abundance.

Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. Matthew 5:11

If we can let this truth penetrate our hearts, on that frightful day when we may be stripped naked of all things that were previously beneficial or seemed so needful to us,we can stand with boldness and say with St. Paul:

"Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? (As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8 35-39