Tuesday, February 5, 2019

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As I reflected on today’s readings, one phrase stayed with me for several days.  The phrase is in the second reading from 1 Corinthians 15: 10.  St. Paul writes, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me.”  We talk a lot about grace.  We sing about grace.  We pray for grace.  But do we ever stop to consider what grace is?   The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life (CCC 1996).  It is “a participation in the life of God” (CCC 1997).  Grace is a supernatural GIFT from God that surpasses our human intellectual capacity. It is a gift that is unmerited.  It is a gift we cannot earn.  Grace “depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself (CCC 1998).

There is, of course, a catch to all this free and undeserved grace.  In order for grace to be “effective” as it was for St. Paul, we have to respond to it.  “God’s free initiative demands [our] free response” because God created us in his image by giving us freedom and “the power to know and love him” (CCC 2002).  We can, if we are foolish, deny God’s grace.  We can say no.  We can make all kinds of excuses for why we cannot possibly respond to God’s call to be a part of his life.  Both St. Peter and Isaiah tried, unsuccessfully, to excuse their way out of God’s work.   Isaiah claimed he was “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6: 5).  And Peter asked Jesus to “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5: 8).  Their excuses amounted to nothing because God’s grace, working in them helped them overcome their unworthiness just as God’s grace working in St. Paul turned him from being a persecutor of the “Church of God” into an apostle of Jesus Christ. 

All of us are unworthy, undeserving and sinful yet God offers all of us the blessed gift of grace.  The best thing we can do is accept God’s grace thankfully; by doing so we have the opportunity to become gracious people.  Then, when God calls us to work in his kingdom, when God asks “whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?” We can respond without fear, “Here I am…send me.” 

Holy God of our happiness,
you entrust your Good News of life
to weak and fallible people.
Keep us from discouragement
and give us the strength to speak your message
with the language of our life.
Let Jesus your Son work with us and in us,
that each of us may have the courage to say:
Here I am, Lord,
send me as your messenger
to share your glad tidings of happiness
with all willing to listen.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.