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August 20, 2014     

Carlos Santa Maria/Photoxpress

The Mysterious Workings of Grace

by Friar Jim Van Vurst, O.F.M.


When speaking of the word grace, it is important to clarify what grace really is. Grace is not something that we get from God. Grace is actually God working within our whole person. Sometimes you hear people speak as though God would ladle out grace. Rather, grace is the presence of God within us. Grace is God’s presence and strength given to us at particular times when we are called to act virtuously. But in all cases, grace is a result of our responding to God’s inner presence within us or God’s assistance in living our lives as Christians. Grace is the dynamic action of God within.

As believers, we try to live out Gospel values to which Jesus calls us each day of our lives. We know that none of us live perfect lives. And it is good to know that perfection is neither a requirement for salvation, nor a possibility. It is good also to eliminate “nearly perfect” from our vocabulary as a precaution, lest we get carried away with our attempts to be good.


Full of Life

When we realize that God’s presence within us is dynamic, we begin to realize that there is more going on between God and ourselves than we can imagine. The word dynamic means that something is energized or in a state of action or movement. Sometimes we have the idea that unless we are doing something, nothing is happening between us and God. The opposite is true.

As believers, we are always growing in union with God. Indeed, we seek to live Christian lives and follow Jesus’ Word, even when we are not conscious of that fact. We can say that, even in the midst of temptation, our intention is to be faithful to God and live a good life. That intention has nothing to do with our lives of ups and downs. Intention lies in the human heart. And that intention opens us up to the working of God within us. We can say that our intention causes us to always respond to the graces God is giving us. Remember, grace is dynamic, alive.

It is not a matter of “carrying God inside us.” That would be too mechanical. It’s better to say that we are filled with God’s presence within us—along with our weaknesses and imperfections. What this means is that the Lord is always touching our hearts. For example, we may not always remember the Scripture readings at Mass, but our intention to be there will still allow those words to have an effect on us.

The goodness of God’s Word has an effect on us, too. We receive Communion and, as it can happen, we discover that we were distracted during those sacred moments. We need not fear that nothing happened during that time. We do not make grace happen in us. We intend each moment to be with God, to live good lives, and to allow God to be active and dynamic within us. We may not feel its effect, but God touches us nonetheless.



Friar Jeremy's Inbox

Readers respond to Friar Jeremy Harrington's August E-spiration, Musing: My Three Beloved Worlds

Dear Friar Jeremy: I love the way you described looking at your life as three beloved worlds. It is also something that I’ve just recently been aware of in my own life, so it was very comforting to read your E-spiration. I, too, have felt that this period in my life will be over soon. That’s not to say I can’t enjoy where I am now. On the contrary, I do find many things that are quite enjoyable. I find myself very grateful, even in my present situation, because I see God around me every day. Gemma

Dear Friar Jeremy: Your reflection reminds me of the different seasons of our lives. And we build relationships with people in different seasons of our lives, too. Some friends are only for a season. Others are with us throughout several seasons. Only God is with us in all seasons. I connect to your reflections. Joy

Dear Friar Jeremy: The second paragraph of your E-spiration went straight into my heart because I am feeling the losses that you listed. The Franciscan school I attended closed its doors almost 30 years ago. People I loved passed away. The only way of surviving is to know that God is always with us. In the same Psalm 73, we pray, “Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.” Janice


I truly appreciate your responses! I had serious doubts whether I should share the reflection. It seemed too self-centered. Would anyone be interested? Would it be a downer for others? Thanks for your reassurance and your faith. You say better what I was feeling.

Gemma: I am trying to do what you are doing: “enjoying where you are now,” being grateful, seeing God “around me every day.”

Joy: It is a valuable insight that we build relationships with people in different seasons of our lives. “Only God is with us in all seasons.”

Janice: You feel the losses, but you focus on that fact that “God is always with us.” Thanks for your quote from Psalm 73: “Though my flesh and my heart fail, God is the rock of my heart, my portion forever.”

Peace to each of you!
Friar Jeremy



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Welcome!
I am Fr. Jim Van Vurst and I hope you'll enjoy
all of the news and great features at AmericanCatholic.org as well as my own writing. By the way, I am a real Franciscan friar, as is my co-worker, Friar Jeremy.
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