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제목 How Grace Works (2016-07-17)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-07-17


 


How Grace Works (2016-07-17)

 

 

My dear brethren,
Yesterday, we have seen a very important truth: our double need for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. the help of our Lord, first in order to heal the wounds of original sin and of our past sins; we need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ secondly in order to elevate our life to that of a child of God, in order to live as children of God. Grace heals and elevates our nature. But how?


St Paul gave the answer when he wrote to the Romans: “the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:5). And St Thomas Aquinas explains that charity is the highest and best gift of the Holy Ghost, but it comes together with all other virtues, supernatural virtues, called “infused virtues” precisely because they are poured forth into (=infused) our soul by the Holy Ghost. You remember that the wounds of sin were inclinations to evil; well, the Holy Ghost heals our soul by giving us inclinations to good: these virtues are precisely inclinations to do good in every domain.


St Thomas explains that the first and fundamental gift of the Holy Ghost is “sanctifying grace”, which is a good quality in the very substance of our soul, making it living of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus St Paul could write to the Galatians: “I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). A member of a body does not have an individual life, but lives of the life of the whole body; so members of the mystical body of our Lord Jesus Christ live of the life of Christ. By sanctifying grace we are “engrafted into” the Mystical Body of Christ; the life of Christ like a divine sap starts to flow in us, and thus it makes us just and pleasing to God. “I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit” (Jn. 15:5).


This good quality in the very essence of the soul flows into our faculties and blossoms there with the “infused virtues”: faith, hope, Charity and all the moral infused virtues. By these virtues, especially by charity, our will is no longer in rebellion against God, but rather loves Him above all things and in therefore “rectified”, it is truly just, not merely “declared just” as the Protestants falsely say. By the virtue of Faith we are inclined to believe all the truths revealed by God and taught by His Church, the Catholic Church; by the virtue of hope we are inclined to long for Heaven and to trust in the help of Christ to get there. By the virtue of Charity we are inclined to love God above all things and our neighbour for God’s sake.


You can see that these virtues, by inclining our soul towards good, correct the evil inclinations of the wounds of sin; they heal them little by little diminishing these evil inclinations and if we are careful to avoid sin this healing with be strengthened day by day. But you also notice that these virtues are the virtues of children of God: it is the proper of a child to so trust his father that he believes everything his father tells him; also a child in the arms of his father is confident he can achieve things which are much beyond his abilities. Thus when I was a child, we visited some cousins in the mountain and our father would put us on his shoulders: then we trusted we could climb any mountain! Also our love for God is not the love of an equal, but rather the love of a child for his Heavenly Father. Thus one can see that these virtues, effect of grace in our soul, both heal and elevate our nature.

But there are also moral virtues in every domain of life. St Thomas describes these virtues beautifully, but they are too numerous to mention all of them here. Let us mention the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, with some of their annexed virtues. Thus by infused virtue of prudence, we are inclined to choose the right means towards the ultimate end, i.e. towards heaven, according to the Commandments of God. How many today either do not order their life towards God, or ignore the Commandments of God in practice. Supernatural prudence is very careful to follow the Commandments, and imitate the Saints on the path to Heaven.


By the infused virtue of justice, we are inclined to give to others what we owe them, and first of all to give to God the worship we owe Him by the virtue of religion, which has an important part of the life of a child of God. The virtue of religion influences everything, making us doing all good work “for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). But justice also inclines us to give due respect to our parents and to legitimate authorities, to obey all legitimate orders, etc. The highest practice of that virtue is found in the Evangelical Counsel of Obedience.


By the infused virtue of fortitude, we are inclined to be strong against temptation and not to give in, to persevere in good and be patient in carrying our crosses here below; we are inclined to have the courage to confess the Faith like the martyrs, to be leaders in good and not followers in evil. The highest practice of that virtue is found in the martyrs.


By the infused virtue of temperance, we are inclined not only to avoid all excesses with regards to pleasures and comfort, but even to deny ourselves and renounce willingly even things which could be legitimate, in order to be more removed from sin and make reparation for past sins. The highest practice of that virtue is found in the evangelical counsels of poverty and chastity and even perfect virginity, by which one renounces all possession of earthly things and all pleasures of the flesh.


But one might say: “but Father, if we have these infused virtues, how is it that we still find in ourselves some inclinations to evil and difficulties to do good?” The reason is that these infused virtues with their good inclinations are at the supernatural level, while the wounds of sin with their evil inclinations are at the natural level, and therefore more easily felt. St Paul describes this struggle beautifully in his epistles: “For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another” (Gal. 5:17). These infused virtues are powerful inclinations towards good, but they are not automatic, they require conscious choice on our part: we must choose to act virtuously! Thus to put these powers of the soul to work, we need to give them their proper motive, supernatural motives, motives of faith. Compare this with a powerful car, say a Porsche: you can feel its power when pressing the accelerator, but if you are in neutral gear, the car will not move. To actually move with that power, you need to put it into gears: then you feel the real power of the engine. So it is for these supernatural virtues, you put them into gear by having motives of faith, by living in the light of Faith. You see that constantly in the epistles of St Paul.


For instance, if we always remember: “God is everywhere; God sees me” and thus live under the loving eye of our Heavenly Father, then for sure we will avoid a lot of evil, and we will be much more attentive to do our duty. Indeed, think of a child, if his father is just behind him, he will be attentive to do that which is right, for instance to learn his lessons, rather than lose his time with computer games. And God sees not only what we do, He hears what we say, He even sees what we think! “Neither is there any creature invisible in his sight: but all things are naked and open to his eyes” (Heb. 4:13). “For man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart” (1Sa 16:7).


Also if we constantly consider that God the Son cares for us so much that He came down from Heaven and suffered on the Cross for our salvation, died on the Cross so that we be dead to sin and rose again the third day so that we may be living unto God in newness of life (see Rom. 6:4,11), if we have the Sacrifice of the Cross always in front of our eyes, how could we dare to add to His suffering by new infidelities? How could such thought not inflame in us a greater zeal to please God in all things, to do His holy Will, to put in practice all these virtues? This is why in good Catholic homes, there is a crucifix or a holy picture in every room, so that such thought be constantly in our mind and help us to put in practice our love for our Lord Jesus Christ! This is what St Paul says to the Ephesians: “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as most dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness” (Eph. 5:1-2). Having considered thus Jesus Crucified as model of all perfect love, St Paul immediately continues and draws the practical conclusions: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints” (Eph. 5:3). See how for St Paul the supernatural motive of the Sacrifice of our Lord puts into gear the infused virtue of purity and chastity. To the Corinthians St Paul takes a similar motive and concludes with very strong language: “Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid!” (1 Cor. 6:15). Out of question! Again here consider the supernatural motive.


St Paul also gives another supernatural motive: “Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). “Know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).


Throughout all his epistles, St Paul always gives these high motives of Faith for the practice of all virtues. This is exactly what I am trying to explain: in order to live a life worthy of a child of God, a life of docility to grace, we need to have all these motives of Faith and follow them. It is clear that the motive of the practice of these supernatural infused virtues is a motive of faith, and then, when you have such consideration of faith, you feel the full power of these infused virtues, power to do good and to overcome temptations, power to mortify ourselves, power to be faithful to the Commandments of God, power to become Saints. Thus by His grace, our Lord both heals our nature and elevates it: we live as children of God the Father, as members of our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, and as temples of the Holy Ghost.


Infused virtues are increased by a new outpouring of grace in our souls, such as through the Sacraments and prayer, but also as a fruit of merit: thus by practicing these virtues, one can merit and thus obtain an increase of them. But further, the very practice of these supernatural virtues build up the corresponding natural virtues: those natural virtues indeed are normally acquired by the repetition of good actions at the light of reason. Thus one becomes a violinist by a long practice of the violin. Now since these motives of Faith, far from being opposed to reason, fill our reason with light and our will with the strength of the love of God, through the repetition of good actions done by these infused virtue, we little by little acquire also the natural virtues opposed directly to the wound of our nature, and, being at the same level, the more these natural virtues grow, the more our nature is healed and the wound diminished.


There is a very important point: God does not force us; He sweetly inclines us to do good by pouring Charity and all these infused virtues in our souls, but He does not force us, nor does any violence to us. We must want it! We must cooperate with His grace and actually put in practice that love and these virtues which He poured into our soul. And to cooperate with grace, as explained above, we must “live by faith” (Rom. 1:17), we must have this view of Faith on our life, we must put into gear these virtues by considerations of faith. The charity poured in our soul and all these other infused virtues do incline us to do good as explained above; but we must cooperate with grace by deliberately choosing for God, for fidelity to Him, in the light of Faith.


We will find much support and encouragement in this life of children of God from the examples of the Saints and above all by the examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Yesterday we just celebrated our Lady of Mount Carmel, patroness of the Carmelite, model of contemplation, model of a life of faith and virtues. The Church in her Liturgy gives us every day either a Saint or a mystery that encourages us in that path of holiness.


In conclusion we do need the grace of God, healing and elevating grace, by which the wounds of our nature are healed and our life becomes the life of a child of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). “And of his fullness we all have received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). We receive that grace habitually through prayer and the Sacraments. Our Lord heals our evil inclinations by giving us His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, pouring into our soul charity and all the infused virtues to incline our heart towards God and all good. May our Lady and all the Saints help us to be always docile to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, cooperating wholeheartedly to His prevenient grace, so that we may advance on the royal road to Heaven, the road of the Cross leading to everlasting life. Amen.

 

 Fr. F. Laisney(SSPXASIA)