God’s providence has granted me grace upon grace. And sometimes graces come in very small packages. Above you’ll see a picture of each of my two god-children Elle (top) and Benedict (bottom). I promised to help their parents raise them in the faith. I traced a cross on their foreheads marking them for Christ. I watched these two children die and rise with Christ at the font. I prayed as each received a share in the inheritance of Christ’s own sonship. In one of the most sublime and awe-filled moments of my life, I held Benedict as he was anointed priest, prophet, and king with the Sacred Chrism. I took part as these beloved children received grace upon grace. I would die to protect either of those kids.
Receiving this Sacrament, my God-children put on new life in Christ, but they also became living sacraments (signs of an invisible reality) through which God acted to help me understand, in a new way, the depth of his love for me. What struck me was the absolute unmerited nature of the gift they had been given. Intellectually, I knew that God’s sanctifying grace was always unmerited, but a temptation to consider God’s grace as the gumball I receive for giving God a quarter’s worth of prayer or good works had practically developed in my mind. Because I’m a to-do list kind of person this is a mindset I often have to fight against.
When I saw my god-children baptized I recognized that 24 years earlier God had done the same thing for me. I recognized that God’s providence was working in my life way before I could recognize it. Through all the trials and sufferings, I’ve experienced he has been at work. He has been at work even when I’ve rejected him through sin. He used those very sins as places where he could pour his mercy and grace upon me so that I could sing his praises even more. I often tell people that I recognized God’s love for me and decided to be a disciple during a retreat in 9th grade. That statement is true but incomplete without a reference to the mysterious but real action of God in that choice. I decided to follow Christ freely, but it was the grace of God by which I did so.
This recognition has changed my perspective on the past, the present, and the future. To contemplate the reality that God’s grace worked in me before my awareness of him, and before I could do anything shows me that God loves me just for being. To know that his grace was present in the dark moments of sin working for my redemption leads me to gratitude. To see the way grace has moved in the past leads me to a certain hope that the Lord will continue to be generous in the future. To know the experience of grace in the past leads me to charity in the present.
I don’t pretend to have even scratched the surface of the vast and deep lake which is the work of God’s grace in my life; nor could I for I truly do not know what hidden and mysterious ways his providence he has provided for my sanctification. In a sense, we are like the babe brought to baptism, cradled in the arms of a loving father who provides what we need at every moment even when we don’t quite know what we need. He loves us with such profundity as to give us things that we need but don’t want. Perhaps, it’s most beautiful that His loving grace-filled providence is not limited by our knowledge of it, but rather the Spirit works as He wills, always for our good.
Whether even in heaven we will know all of the mysterious ways that God has worked to bring about our sanctification, I do not know. But I do believe that there, at last, we will know that it was his work in and through us, that brought us to beatitude – Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
In part, this post came about because in spirituality class we’ve talked a lot about grace. Grace, very roughly speaking, the unmerited gift which invites us to participate in the life of the Trinity. In God, grace is one but for the sake of us human beings in the class, we have spent significant class time dissecting it by its effects in us and others around us. If you want to read more about the different ways we talk about grace I highly recommend that you read CCC 1996 – 2005. It’s beautiful stuff for meditation!