Editor’s note: Enjoy this first in a new series on grace by Fr. James Brent, O.P. We are blessed to have him contributing to our website and to our understanding of how God works in the soul and how we cooperate in the process of sanctification. As Fr. James explains below, this divinizing work is the natural maturation of our baptismal grace and is the call of every Christian — and it is, always, the goal of all the content we seek to share on Spiritualdirection.com.
The grace of God has appeared.
“The grace of God has appeared” (Titus 2:11). A new kind of life, therefore, is possible for human beings. Thanks to the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, and his death and resurrection, the grace of the Holy Spirit was poured into our souls in our baptism. Baptism has established a new form of life in us – a supernatural life – as friends of God, other Christs in the world, adopted sons and daughters of the Father, members of the Church, and the temple of the living God. Such a gift was given to us not because of any merit of our own, but it was God who first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). He poured forth his grace into our souls in order to transform us in the depths of our hearts. And the gift of his grace, which is something of his own divine Life, is meant to grow in us.
Few people realize that the grace of God given to us in our baptism is meant to grow. God works to increase his grace or supernatural life in our souls, but God also calls us to participate in the process of growth through our free choices and various practices. Every one of us is called to go on a journey from the land of our bondages to the land of the living God in the heavenly places. The journey is challenging, and “many are the trials of the just man” (Ps. 34:19). Yet, through them all the God of grace is with us to lead us on to the abodes of the victorious in the Jerusalem up above. To live according to grace is the road into the Light. There is no other way.
God himself has revealed the ways and means for us to take so that his grace might grow strong in us, and so that we might shine like lights in the world around us. The gospel that the Church proclaims to the world is that The Kingdom of Grace is at hand. The Kingdom of Grace is the title of this series of articles on the spiritual life, and the purpose of the series is to provide traditional, time tested, and true teachings on the mystery of grace, on the growth of grace in our souls, and how to live our lives according to divine grace more and more.
The series will touch on many topics in the spiritual life: the meaning of grace, how the Spirit dwelling in us by grace works to form “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27), and how everything leads on to the Father. Friendship with God, filial adoption, and the indwelling Trinity are but a few of the topics, but so too are the practicals of living by grace, e.g. fruitful reception of the Eucharist, various forms of prayer, and the importance of works of mercy. Life in the kingdom of grace leads to the purification and illumination of the deep heart in each of us. It leads to the renewal of the image of God in the depths of our hearts. It leads to increasingly greater interior likeness to God – divinization. Life according to grace leads to a new awareness of God speaking to us in Scripture and liturgy, a new awareness of the presence of God dwelling in our hearts, a new awareness of God shining out all around us in people and in nature in different ways. In short, it leads to contemplative prayer and to wisdom of heart.
Such are a few of the topics in our series, and the best way to begin is with humility, i.e. with a tiny practical step. Why not take a brief moment, find a quiet place, silence oneself as much as possible, and offer up a simple prayer? Any prayer will do – the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, or whatever else one finds attractive at the moment. God never asks us to start from anywhere other than where we are now. He never asks for more than what we can do today by the grace that is already given to us. The point is to ask for new graces. Let us ask for God to give new life to our hearts, new graces to his Church, and new graces for the many people who live “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). The hearts of those who are hurting and broken, indeed the whole world, is so much in need of God’s grace. The time to seek his grace is now. Only let us do so with confidence in the words of the Lord Jesus: “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7).