The Life of Grace

1 June 2006: Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter
John 17, 20-26: The Life of Grace

Today we hear the prayer of Jesus for the Church to be: “It is not only for these that I pray, but also for those who are going to believe in their word of testimony to me. And my prayer is that they may all be one, even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, so that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.” In other words, he prayed that all of the members of the Church would be one as he and His Father are one. And here we define what we all call, “grace”. Grace is the indwelling of God in human life. Thus, when we share in the life of God, we are graced. When we are one with God, as Jesus and His Father are one, we are in the state of grace.

For St. Paul, the purpose of God’s creation is to bring all people into relation with Him, making all people His children by uniting them with his Son Jesus Christ. The grace of God effects an inner transformation that amounts to a new creation, a new presence of God to us. We are specifically Christians, united with the Father by and in the Son (Rom 6, 1-14; 2 Cor 5: 16-19). “We were buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4).

If grace unites us, what causes division is not grace. Sin moves us away from God. Thus if someone says that he or she is graced by God, but cheats or is uncharitable towards another, then the person is in the state of illusion and not of grace. Sin therefore is incompatible with grace.

Second, grace moves us into communion. It builds community. Thus if we are moved towards the love of a community, then you are indeed graced, the indwelling Spirit is in you. We are all given gifts by the Spirit (charism) and thus we are all charismatic. But only when those gifts are used in the service or the building of a community, can that service be called a ministry. Thus, if you participate at mass, because it is a community in worship, then you are indeed in the state of grace. If you help build a community through your works of leadership and charity --- as those who help build houses in Gawad Kalinga or teach children --- then you are indeed graced and you have a ministry. On the other hand, if you are a person who does not like community, who withdraws, who is divisive, who is very exclusive rather than inclusive, then you are not graced. We may have varied ideas, but when we are able to listen and somehow achieve unity in love, we are able to align our hearts and minds to the heart and mind of God.

A final word. But unity is something we still have to achieve. We have seen that the Christian church is very much divided. There are differences in the style of worship, their own exclusive churches and ecclesiastical organizations. In the Catholic Church itself, the belief systems are diverse and practices vary from culture to culture. There are Catholics in all parts of the spectrum especially on contemporary issues. Christian unity however transcends all barriers and joins each person together in love. It is when we authentically love each other that we can convince the world of the truth of Christianity and convince them that it is Christ --- not our personal lives, our rituals, our organization --- who is at the very center of our lives. When we are Christ-centered, we are in the life of grace.

*my amateur photo of flora in Mirador Jesuit Villa, May 2006.

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