MY CATHOLIC FAITH
The case of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most wonderful instances of cooperation with God’s grace. Saul of Tarsus was one of the most active persecutors of the early Christians. On the way to Damascus to arrest Christians, Soul was struck down by a brilliant light, and heard a voice say: “Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me?” Saul asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” And Jesus answered, “I am Jesus, whom thou art persecuting. Saul immediately grasped at grace, and asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” From then on he turned his back on his former life, and belonged completely to Christ, till as the incomparable Apostle Paul he was martyred in Rome.
What is actual grace? –Actual grace is a supernatural help of God which enlightens our mind and strengthens our will to do good and to avoid evil.
By actual grace the Holy Ghost shows us the emptiness in themselves of earthly things. He makes us see our own sins, and the true goal of life. By it we can perform a virtuous act or reject a temptation.
Actual grace is transient; that is, it is given to us only when we need it, to perform a good act, or to overcome a temptation.
An example of the wonderful action of the Holy Ghost in enlightening the mind and strengthening the will is the First Pentecost. Before the descent of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles were ignorant and afraid; after His descent, His grace made them wise and fearless men, going forth to preach Christ everywhere, ready to die for their faith.
God gives us always sufficient grace to be saved. A true Christian should view his whole life in the light of grace. All God’s gifts granted for man’s salvation are graces.
A good family, a good education,-these are graces. But even sickness and hardships are God’s graces, and may be the steps by which to ascend to heaven. And God grants graces to protect us against temptation, never suffering us to be tempted beyond our strength. If we do our part, avoid the occasions of sin, and cooperate with His graces, we shall win.
Is actual grace necessary for all who have attained the use of reason? –Actual grace is necessary for all who have attained the use of reason, because without it we cannot long resist the power of temptation, nor perform other actions which merit a reward in heaven.
We all need actual grace. Sinners need it to rise from sin. The just need it to persevere in good. Without grace, we fall into sin.
Herod was offered actual grace when he heard of the birth of the Messias from the three wise men; but Herod rejected the grace, and added to his sins.
Grace is given to all men, although not in equal amounts. Some receive more, some less. Some ordinary graces are granted to all men; certain extraordinary graces are granted to chosen ones.
God is free to bestow His gifts as He likes. The Blessed Virgin received more than other mortals. Christians receive more than pagans. Those in the state of grace are likely to receive more than those in the state of mortal sin. In a way, our graces depend also on our dispositions. If we are faithful in corresponding with what we get, we receive more abundantly. Often our carelessness and indifference turn away God’s graces from us. We reject Him who only wishes to make us saints, whose “delight is to be with the children of men” (Prov. 8:31).
What are the principal ways of obtaining grace? –The principal ways of obtaining grace are prayer and the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.
The sacraments of Baptism and Penance give grace to those not possessing it; the other sacraments increase grace in those already in the state of grace.
Actual grace is obtained by good works. It is especially obtained by the use of means offered by the Church, such as hearing Mass, sermons, etc., and receiving the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist, which contains God, the Source of Grace.
Although we cannot merit grace by our good works, still our good works can beg God for us, to give us grace. Good works are necessary, for God will not save us without our cooperation.
Actual grace is made to act through various means: through sermons, reading of good books, illness and death, advice of superiors and friends, good example, etc.
The first converts at Pentecost were moved by the preaching of the Apostles. St. Ignatius of Loyola was moved by the reading of the lives of the saints; St. Francis of Assisi, during an illness; St. Francis Borgia, upon seeing the corpse of Queen Isabella. Often God sends us sufferings as a means by which the Holy Ghost may speak to us.
Can we resist the grace of God? –Unfortunately, we can resist the grace of God, for our will is free, and God does not force us to accept His grace.
Grace does not force us. It leaves us free to choose between good and evil. The Holy Ghost guides and enlightens, but we can still close our eyes to His grace. If we cooperate, we gain other graces.
As Christ said, “For to him who has shall be given, and he shall have abundance” (Matt. 13:12). He who persists in rejecting the gift of God’s grace and refuses to be converted will die in his sin and will be forever excluded from the sight of God. “From him who does not have, even that which he seems to have shall be taken away. But as for the unprofitable servant, cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:29-30). Would it not be an insult to a king if he keeps offering gifts to one of his people, and these gifts are despised?
We should be on the lookout for the graces of God, ready to accept them as soon as they are offered. The action of the Holy Ghost on the individual soul is not continuous in particular graces; we must be ready when He comes with special gifts.
Some receive only one summons to the banquet. In the desert, the Israelites who rose late found the manna melted away. There are times of special grace for the Christian, such as Lent, a retreat, etc.
How can we make our most ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward? –We can make our most ordinary actions merit a heavenly reward by doing them for the love of God, and by keeping ourselves in the state of grace.
God grants us the right to a heavenly reward for the most ordinary good actions in the supernatural order, provided we are in the state of grace. God does not ask us to do extraordinary things. If we do the most ordinary tasks of the day, like cooking, studying, doing small chores, carpentry work, sewing, and such, in a spirit of love and obedience to Him, our acts will deserve merit before God’s eyes.
God does not expect all of us to be great scientists saving thousands of lives each day, great discoverers, great lawyers, great statesmen. Does God need our help? All He wants is our love; and this we can give in the most ordinary daily actions. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God.”
By mortal sin one loses the merit he has gained from his good actions. It is necessary that he regain that state of grace before he can regain that merit.
To regain God’s friendship, we must be sorry for our sins, make a good confession, and resolve never to displease Him again. Then He will give us back the gift of His grace and love, and the merit of all our good works.