Grace to you!
Have you ever felt a burden or an inspiration to pray, to read your bible, to go to Mass or simply to do something good? Good inspirations come from the Holy Spirit, the giver of graces and gifts to enable us to live a holy life. They are actual graces.
You will recall during the first two weeks of our Advent reflections, we reflected on the meaning of grace and sanctifying grace. We mentioned that at Baptism, we receive the sanctifying grace, the grace of justification, which the Church also calls deifying grace. That grace comes with the infused theological virtues of faith, hope and charity.
We equally receive from the Holy Spirit other virtues called infused moral virtues, the most prominent from which, according to the tradition of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the other moral virtues spring or are connected and classified. Hence they are called cardinal virtues. They include Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance.
As a refresher, remember that theological virtues are infused in the soul of believers through sanctifying grace. They don’t come by the power of the believer. They are different from those “habits” you acquire yourself, though inspired by the Holy Spirit too, which are called acquired virtues.
I understand some have difficulty accepting the concept of virtue, preferring to give it other names. This reflection isn’t for that theological debate. For our Catholic traditional spirituality (and many protestants hold onto this too), virtue is a good concept to describe those qualities of Godliness that make us more and more configured into Christ.
Nevertheless, though you may have received the signature of the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), when the grace of justification was bestowed at baptism, though you may have been infused with faith, hope and charity, and your soul equipped with all the moral disposition to be prudent, act in justice, be courageous in faces of difficulties and trials (fortitude), and self-control (temperance), it is the actual grace of God, which leads us to practice these virtues through the Spirit’s promptings.
A subtle biblical instance from today’s Liturgical reading of the Gospel of John chapter five would add value to this reflection. The text is about the Lord Jesus’ indictment of many of his Jewish audience for their inability to accept the facts pointing to his identity as the Messiah, despite, at least four pieces of evidence, which outweigh the two minimum required by their experts at the time. Namely, the testimony of John, the testimony of his Father during the baptism at the Jordan, when a voice spoke from heaven, the testimony of his works (the miracles and signs) and the testimony of Scripture (meaning here the Old Testament Scripture which his audience accepted as revealed).
In all these, Jesus’ identity as the Messiah was evident, yet they didn’t believe. They lacked that actual grace to connect the dots.
Actual graces are spiritual booster. Their impact on us could be compared (in a figurative way) to that moment we are getting depressed or already depressed, and a friend breaks good news to us that gets us wired for actions of a refreshing kind.
If you are ever bored in the spiritual life or confused as to what is next… you need more actual graces. They keep our faith alive, our hope refreshed, and charity enlivened, our enthusiasm up and our zeal ever reinvigorated. For the believer, actual grace motivates for holy actions.
On this Day 20 of Advent, may we pray for those who are not motivated in their spiritual life and the practice of virtue, so that, through the graces of the Eucharist offered all over the world today, and the graces of the prayers of the saints, they may be inspired and motivated. Amen.
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.