Bishop Hying

A gift of God’s presence, grace is all around and within us, an act of love

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on September 24, 2017


       Grace is a common word in both the Scriptures and the liturgy. Homilists speak of it, Christian songs celebrate it and St. Paul wrote about it often. 

       What is grace exactly? 

       The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that grace is “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.” The gift of God’s presence and life, grace is all around us and within us.

       As Christians, we believe that baptism washes away our original sin, joins us to Christ and the Church, that we become beloved children of God through adoption and that the wonder of God’s life and action comes to dwell within us. We are temples of the Holy Spirit.  Ponder this truth for a moment. 

       God, whom the universe cannot contain, who is beyond every human expression of thought and speech, who is beyond the reach of the cosmos, loves us so much, that he wants to live inside of us. We become his abode in the world! 

       Sounds too good to be true?  Read John 14:23: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”  I find this promise to be absolutely extraordinary and life-changing. 

       If God truly dwells in us, we must live accordingly, nurturing that supernatural grace within through prayer and the sacraments. We will genuinely love ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit and reverence every person we meet as a child of God, as a bearer of the divine image, as one loved and cherished by the Lord. We will seriously try to root all sin out of our body, soul, mind and heart because we want to be a worthy dwelling for the sanctifying grace of the Most Holy Trinity. 

       This truth has implications for governments, businesses, marriages and families. It has implications for how we live together and relate to one another in every respect. How different the world would truly be if we lived by the wondrous, transforming grace freely offered to us by the Lord!

       St. Paul speaks often of grace as the free, undeserved gift of God’s love, forgiveness, mercy and salvation, won for us through Jesus Christ, which sustains and strengthens us to do the will of the Father and to love each other, as we persevere through every trial and suffering. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul details how he begged the Lord to remove some deep suffering or trial in his life, to no avail. Rather, he heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 

       Grace is the stream of ineffable goodness constantly flowing into us from the burning heart of the Lord Jesus. The more we ponder the wonder of grace, the more grateful we become as we profoundly realize that everything is a gift. Our very existence, the people who love us, our material blessings and discovered talents, the beauty of the world are gifts that allow us to go deeper into the spiritual reality of our lives. 

       The love of God, the promise of heaven, our identity as beloved children of the Father, the gift of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation, the presence of God within and around us, the intercession of the saints and the mercy of Jesus - all of this becomes overwhelming when we realize it as unmerited and undeserved, an absolute gift, a complete grace!

       When we grasp the enormity of grace in our lives, we “pay it forward,” offering to others as a free gift what we ourselves have received. People who dwell consciously in the depths of grace radiate light, joy, peace, love and generosity, not counting what they do for others, because they know that God doesn’t count what he has done for them. 

       The saints, in their love for God and others, reflect this glorious explosion of grace and mercy. This need to give away in abundance the gift received explains Francis of Assisi kissing lepers, Mother Teresa picking maggots out of open wounds of the abandoned, Maximilian Kolbe trading places with an unknown man in a starvation bunker at Auschwitz, Katherine Drexel giving away a fortune and dedicating her life to the dispossessed, Francis Xavier going on mission to the Far East, and millions of unsung actions of heroism, sacrifice, generosity and kindness, offered not because it was deserved or merited, but simply as sheer grace.

       Other definitions of grace include “courteous goodwill” and “the condition of being favored by someone.”  These ways of looking at grace fit nicely with our Christian understanding. Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Annunciation with the greeting, “Hail, full of grace!”  This divine favor, this sacred election, this spiritual anointing is extended to us through Christ.

       If we fully realized the enormity of grace we have received, the infinite and perfect love of God offered to us, nothing would stand in our way of becoming zealous disciples of the Lord and some of the greatest saints who have ever lived. 

       What are the graces in your life? What form do they take? How can you pass them on?

       + Donald J. Hying

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