Notes from a Friar: The Mysterious Workings of Grace

mountains with sunrise

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. We experience this most acutely within the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can feel grace working with us and around us. 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.

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2 thoughts on “Notes from a Friar: The Mysterious Workings of Grace”

  1. I’m a hospital chaplain in a regional trauma center. This has changed the way I pray with my patients and families. One element of my prayer is asking God to ‘pour buckets of grace upon them, saturating them, covering them’, trying to give them a visceral sense of God’s grace being present in their great need. But that isn’t what I believe. I believe, like you, that God’s Holy Spirit fills us up and is essential to our being… indwelling, ‘along with our weaknesses and imperfections’. Beautiful. I am editing my pastoral prayer to make this phrasing the reassurance of God’s presence with them, God’s grace within them…closer than sighing. Thank you.

  2. So Jesus commands us to be as perfect as is our Heavenly Father. The Divine Presence within is the love saturated part of our soul The more fully we choose to experience that Divinity through Grace, the more we become perfected?

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