Grace: The SharingMay 4th, 2012
In the Catholic Christian tradition, grace signifies Christ’s life in us. In ordinary speech, grace means “charm” or “appeal” (“She is a very graceful person.”), but the word’s root meaning has overtones of kindness, favor and gift. In Christian belief, therefore, grace suggests God’s goodness and generosity, which endow us with the life of Christ. Grace is gift par excellence.
Grace is our sharing in the salvation and redemption of humankind that was accomplished by the life, death and resurrection of the God-Man, Jesus. It is a new kind of relationship with God.
When we are in the state or relationship of grace, we, as individuals, have been created again so that the life of Christ continues and evolves in our individual human existence. In a way that only God can bring about, we live Christ’s life in our own.
It is important to realize that grace is a gift, freely given us by the Spirit of God. We cannot earn or deserve this relationship because we can have absolutely no right to it. Left to ourselves we would remain in constitutional sinfulness, muddling through as best we could, looking to God as something outside ourselves. But God does not leave us to ourselves. God comes to us on his own initiative and makes us over so that, in addition to being ourselves, we are also somehow participants in the life of Christ.
Yet we do have a part to play in grace. God does not make us sharers and participants in the life of Christ whether we want to be or not. God offers us the new life of Christ as a gift that we are invited to accept.
Moreover, grace is not just an individual relationship between God and us. Grace is offered to us through other human beings, through and in the community of those who believe in Christ, which we call the church.
All this comes together and is expressed in baptism.
Presenting oneself for baptism expresses a willingness to share in the life of Christ, to be part of God’s story for the world in and with Christ. The candidate for baptism expresses some level of faith. Through the ministry of the church in baptism, God transforms this incipient openness to Christ and establishes a new relationship between the candidate and Christ. (Note that even the candidate’s preliminary faith is itself the gift of God and not something achieved for oneself.)
God gifts the candidate with Christ’s life. The candidate is precious to God in a whole new way. The candidate now shares not only the life of Christ, but also the lives of all others who live in Christ. We come into grace, then, and into the church, through God’s gift of faith and baptism.
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