Grace to you!
Before we continue our reflection on actual grace, may I refresh our minds on what we said on the fourth day of Advent as an introduction to this piece on actual grace. For the Church, grace is one. When we speak of different types of grace, it could be understood as an expression of the different functions of grace in the life of the believer. Thus, we speak of sanctifying grace and actual grace; and then sacramental grace and special graces (charisms).
Did you remember that time you were poised to avenge someone who terribly hurt you. You planned what to do and were determined to execute. Suddenly, as it seemed, you get a sort of nudge from within your conscience, convicting you of that decision. You find out how terrible your actions would be, and how it will make you less of the ideal you would want for yourself. Or you realize it wouldn’t bring glory to God and promote love. You repent of that action and decide not to carry it out.
You may call the experience repentance or change of heart or secondary, minor moments of conversion. What you experienced was the function of the favor of God called actual grace. This grace is abundantly provided by the Lord and inspires our consciences to take actions that will bring glory to God. Actions done in response of actual graces are good, of love and pleasant.
When they say somebody’s conscience is dead, from a Catholic spirituality point of view, it is only possible when the sanctifying grace is gone and the actual grace that builds from it is completely silenced. It would be unthinkable to be in the state of grace and have a dead conscience.
Many times we may revolt (sorry for the harsh word). By that I mean, those times we simply want to be left alone despite all God’s nudges (actual graces) and to do our own will, not minding the consequences—you know, that teenage-like sort of rebellion common to many of us. It’s actually human.Thus, we may not respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit with the actual grace showing us what is pleasant, good and holy. God’s grace is knocking, though we reserve the right to walk or not to walk in its light. It’s joy to respond even if we had earlier said, “I want to be left alone.”
Hear Jesus describe the blessing of a change of heart when God nudges: “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Matthew 21: 28-32).
On this Day 17 of Advent, what if we responded to God’s nudges and not procrastinate;
or simply run away from it because it’s not what we would have loved to see? How about if one of our gifts to the Infant Jesus is a promise to always respond. Actual grace is provided for us to do so.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.