August 20, 2011

Actual Graces

An important truth of the spiritual life which is vital to remember but easy to miss:

When we become aware of needing some particular grace, such as God's help in the struggle with some temptation, or with overcoming some sin, or in obtaining some virtue, this awareness itself is the grace of God at work.

It's easy to get the idea that the pursuit of holiness works like this: we examine ourselves, find ourselves deficient and miserable, decide that we need certain graces to become more holy and less unhappy, and then go to God in prayer to ask for what we have figured out we need.

When things get really bad on this impoverished idea of religion, God can get to be imaged as kind of ultimate spiritual clerk. Prayer is like going to the DMV. You know just what you need, and you hope your request and materials are in order to have it fulfilled. Of course it's even worse than that, because often you walk away from the DMV having succeeded in taking care of your business. If you treat God this way, he will allow you to continue to fail at happiness and fall prey to sin, because you have not understood the most basic of graces God wants to share.

When the desire for grace and God's help arise in the heart, perhaps suggesting that we pray, this already is the grace of God at work. Of course God wants to give us all the graces we need to overcome our sins and to obtain the virtues that will make us happy ourselves and beneficial to each other, but most of all God wants to freely consent to our created condition as persons made from and imagined in the creativity of his own overflowing, trinitarian love.

The thought that I need a certain grace is not my spiritual self-diagnosis, but God's invitation to consent to my dependence on him.


mccarra said...

Fr. Charles, I have followed your blog since I became aware it existed. Yesterday's was a perfect example of what I like about your writing. First some self-revelation, followed by analysis of that revelation, completed by a statement of 'satisfaction' from that analysis. I aspire to be as succinct and complete in my posts.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the encouragement!