Grace to you!
One of the major factors distinguishing those who have made much progress in the spiritual life and those who have not is on how frequently they respond to God’s promptings or actual graces. Those promptings (actual graces) could also be understood as divine nudges.
The fascinating thing about actual graces is that they are so richly provided; around and within us, through people we meet in the shopping mall, on the streets; through past and present events.
Actual graces could be communicated during conversations with friends, family, and professional colleagues. God makes them available to us through nature and natural events, memories of the past, and through spiritual gifts like knowledge, discernment and words of wisdom, etc.
Most importantly, we receive an abundance of actual graces through the Word of God and the sacraments. A special name for actual graces that come through the sacraments, especially apart from the grace of Baptism, is sacramental grace. Sacramental graces could be actual or sanctifying, depending on the functions they perform. I shall reflect on this later, during the discussion on sacramental grace.
Everything in the natural setting is God’s vehicle of communicating his grace. When Saint Paul said he heard God speak to him during his moments of struggles, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), it should be understood literally. No one can outdo God in generosity. God’s generosity is grace.
One of the ways to respond to these nudges is to pay attention to that first silent voice that speaks with a tone of peace and calm. That first voice is probably the voice of God, actual grace, whispering, “my child this is the way, follow it.” Scripture says: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying: “This is the way, walk in it,” (Isaiah 30:21).
The second voice, often louder and noisy—offering you numerous alternate reasons; telling you why you shouldn’t respond to God’s promptings, are likely the voice of Satan dissuading you from the invitation of actual grace. Turn deaf ear to it.
Take for instance, we are preparing for Christmas. You had this thought to do something good for somebody in your neighborhood who is really in need. The consolation that came with this thought, plus the calm (peace of soul), was convincing that this is the right thing to do. Then, the second voice comes, advising you to focus only on your children and your family. “Next year is another opportunity. You can attend to that needy person then,” it suggests. This second voice is the voice of the deceiver. Please don’t listen to it.
I repeat, what makes for great saints is the frequency of their response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Those promptings in theological and Catholic spirituality terminology are called actual graces.
Consider John the Baptist, the man called greatest by the Lord Jesus. When the voice of Satan, the voice of doubt came knocking, he wanted to know if Jesus was truly the Messiah, though he had already proclaimed him as the Messiah. Jesus’ response to John, sent through John’s disciples, was to point to the works of God happening all around him. Pay attention to those works.
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Luke 7:22-23).
On this Day 18 of Advent, consider paying attention to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the actual graces. They are everywhere. Pray for the grace of discernment to know when God speaks.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.