Monday, October 11, 2010

Transforming Grace

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” 1 Corinthians 15: 10a

Have you ever thought about God’s grace? I mean, really thought about it—what it is, why He gives it to us, what does it does for us? Grace is the life and power of God Himself that He freely shares with us so that we can come to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him and to ultimately be with Him forever in heaven. Grace is a share in the divinity of Christ, given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, primarily through the sacraments. And God the Father bestows this grace on us because He loves us. We don’t earn it; in fact we can’t earn it. But without it, we could never become holy, we could never be Saints, we could never spend eternal life with Him in heaven.

So what does grace do? It transforms us from the inside out. St. Augustine used the imagery of an iron fire poker. Hard, cold, dense—but put it into the fire long enough and it begins to soften, it heats up and it glows red. It becomes malleable. Bang it with a hammer on an anvil and it changes shape. This is kind of what grace does for us. Our hearts become more soft to God’s Word and our souls become more malleable to His Spirit.

A good example of the transforming power of grace is St. Peter. Read the four Gospels and it becomes clear that St. Peter, while possessing a great love for Christ, was a flawed man. He bragged; he wanted Jesus’ attention and approval. He doubted in Jesus after walking almost right next to Him on the water. He argued with the other apostles about being the greatest. He couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in the garden—and then resorted to violence when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. He denied knowing Jesus three times after saying he would die for Jesus. And finally, he hid in the upper room between the crucifixion and resurrection and then again after Jesus ascended into heaven. But then what happened?

Pentecost! The Holy Spirit rushed upon St. Peter and the other apostles and they came running out of that upper room filled with courage and wisdom. St. Peter preached boldly to the crowd and 3,000 people were baptized and entered the Church that day (Acts 2). He then went on to be the first pope and led the Church through the Councils of Jerusalem. He finally ended up in Rome where he was captured by the authorities and commanded to deny Christ under threat of death. To which he replied (at least in my mind) “Been there, done that, not doing it again.” Finally, they led him out to crucify him and his last request was that they crucify him upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. His request was granted.

The Peter who died upside down, hanging from a cross, was not the same Peter who denied Jesus three times or cut-off the ear of the man in the garden. He was a new creation! He was transformed by grace into a holy Saint of God, willing to suffer and die for love of his Savior. And this same grace is offered to us. Will we dare to receive it and cooperate with it so that our lives can be transformed?

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your grace. Please help me to never receive Your grace in vain and help me to cooperate with Your grace so that my life can be transformed into the Saint You have called me to be. Amen.

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