Leaning on Grace

We may not be satisfied with the fruit we are bearing but many of us would come up with excuses as to why we can’t be more fruitful, why we don’t have enough time and how our weaknesses keep getting in the way. While God understands our frailty, He is fully aware that we are not limited by it. Instead He shows us our way of holiness.

It may seem difficult, even impossible, to live a Holy life but the truth is:

“For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 25-26 )

Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit and said that it is good that He goes so that the Spirit would come and dwell within man (John 16:7). Jesus wants us to have the Holy Spirit within us, rather than just know about Him, or for Him to act without our involvement. Whether we have had a physical “experience” of the Holy Spirit or not, if we have been baptized, God has already poured His Spirit into us and He will not abandon us. When the Spirit dwells in us, He gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us. This love is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit . Because we are God’s children, by the power of the Spirit, we can bear much fruit (the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control ).

If God has already done it all and His Spirit is within us , why don’t we see much change, or why do we struggle to love? Instead of being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” in which we were to “shine like stars in the world” (Phillipians 2:15), our love for God and his people has been blemished.

The way we bear the fruit of the Spirit is by renouncing ourselves; which makes it possible to “walk in the Spirit” (CCC 736) We renounce ourselves and instead say “Yes” to God. Saying “Yes” to God implies that there is a choice to be made – one that will lead us closer to God than the other(s) and “grace” gives us the ability to say “Yes” to God. (Example : Mama Mary) By virtue of our baptism we are given grace. This is the single most important tool in following Jesus and living a Holy life. It is almost as if, Jesus in being born a man walked through every part of our lives and filled it with grace so that we would have the means to live it like He would. It is only by grace that we can be made Holy. It is not our doing but His doing.

“Nothing whatsoever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace”
~ St Augustine.

It is grace that leads us to God’s will and helps us to accomplish it. It is grace that makes holiness possible, without which we wouldn’t even be able to make the effort. The pre-requisite of receiving more grace is that we have accepted it before, and the more we accept and act on it, the more grace we receive and the more holiness is manifested in us. The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. The latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification though charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since He who completes His work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it”.

Does that mean we do nothing and God does everything?

No, it means that we place ourselves where and how God can move in us.

Indeed we also work but we are only collaborating with God who works for His mercy and has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; It goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without Him we can do nothing.

How do we do it? As St. Jose Maria Escriva says “Without an interior life we cannot live a meaningful exterior life. If we try to, it will be like a tree that has no roots. It will come crashing down at the slightest wind or erosion of the soil.”

  1. Being rooted in Christ
    • An interior life involves a time of prayer that includes talking to God honestly, reading His word, waiting on Him to speak as we listen, being still before Him, constantly seeking God for the grace and strength to make the required changes in our lives.
    • Renewing our minds and deepening our faith by reading, discussing and genuinely seeking answers to questions we have. Assume the stance of one open to correction and with the desire to align with God.
    • Including other disciplines that will keep us open to respond to God in our day-to-day situations – praying in tongues, Eucharist, Sacrament of reconciliation, Marian Devotion, Fasting and Abstinence (to overcome lust of the flesh), cultivating generosity (to overcome lust of the eyes), serving God and his people (to overcome pride of life).
  2. Bearing fruit because of Christ
    • Handling our daily responsibilities with the intention of glorifying God, no matter what the cost. (“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”) 1 Corinthians 10:31. We must seek to give God glory in the most mundane things.
    • Fulfilling our works/ duties, irrespective of acknowledgement or the lack of it from people.
    • Recognizing our tendency to deal with people in uncharitable ways and asking God for the grace to help us respond differently. This may take time, and in some situations it may be easier to bear the fruit of the Spirit than others; but to keep at it and desire the Spirit to work within us to change us, rather than change another. Often times, difficult people/ situations are handpicked for us to start renouncing ourselves and exercise the fruit of the Spirit. This can also include obedience to elders and authority, forgiving our neighbor, bridling our tongue.
  3. Carrying the Cross in the power of the Spirit
    The cross presents itself in many different shapes and sizes in our lives. It may come in the form of direct persecution, hardships, limitations… the list is endless but the choice always remains.

    We can choose to endure, bear the weight of the cross not for its own sake but for the love of Jesus, as a means of sharing in His life. If we choose it, we join with Jesus’ work of sanctifying our lives and the world.

    However, there are many times when we feel like the victim, helpless and hopeless. We surrender the choice of bearing it for Jesus and suffer it as an unwanted, fruitless burden. It’s power to bring forth life becomes void and it is as it appears – an overwhelming trial, crushing suffering and an eventual defeat/ failure.

    The saints were quick to identify their cross and bear it willingly, as their own path towards holiness. Many who had the habit of spending time in prayer and reflection found that bearing their cross opened them up to the experiences of Jesus during His passion and so accepted it as a privilege, almost as a badge of humble honor.

    The choice determines if a particular cross is a weapon to overcome the enemy and allow God to pour out His grace or the place where we give up and are defeated.

We are all deserving of God’s grace. Its time we examine and ask ourselves,

“Are we truly rooted in Christ and open to His grace to bear good fruit?”

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