In the Church, we speak of grace quite a bit, but do we really understand it? The catechism defines grace as “God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” (Book of Common Prayer, 858) Through God’s grace our failures, our “missing the mark” is forgiven, and through God’s grace we are given the wisdom to learn from our failures, we are given the desire in our heart to change, and we are endued with the strength to make change. Grace is experienced in tangible ways through the sacraments. “The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” (Book of Common Prayer, 857) Through Baptism, the Eucharist, and through other rites of the church, we experience God’s grace, God’s love toward us and we share in that mutual experience; we share in the relationship with God. Theologian Edward Campbell adds, “Grace names the undeserved gift that creates relationships and the sustaining, responding, forbearing attitude-plus-action that nurtures relationships.” (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, Edward F. Campbell, 259) Grace is all about relationships.
As Christians, relationships for us involve primarily our love for God and our love for each other. Our Lord commands us to love God with all that we are, and commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Therefore, the grace that is extended to us from God is the grace that we are to extend to each other. Despite our failures, despite our “missing the mark,” God freely offers grace to us, and we are called to offer the same to each other. As the Body of Christ, we are a “Community of Grace” that is called to embrace those moments when we miss the mark, as a learning moment, a teaching moment, a growth moment, and most importantly, a moment for us to show grace to one another. Campbell asserts, “One senses God’s graciousness by observing the best of human action, but divine and human paradigms of grace inform one another: human grace imitates and depicts God’s grace; God’s grace calls forth human imitation.” (Campbell, 260.) We get glimpses of God’s grace through the best of human action, and that human and divine action was fully revealed in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Grace is all about restoration, reconciliation, and healing.
A few years ago, the UK band U2 recorded their fabulous alternative hit “Grace.” Today, the words of this song ring true about the nature of grace:
(YOUTUBE video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrRfoEEDENo&feature=related )
As a “Community of Grace” called together to be vessels of grace for each other and the world, may we see each moment of our common life together as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to grow, and an opportunity to be the sacramental presence of grace in a hurting and broken world.
Peace, Fr. Eric+