Grace to you!
One of the wisest sayings of Saint Thomas Aquinas with regard to virtue is: “Virtue stands in the mean of two extremes.”
We say in our common language that too much of anything is bad. Sleep is good. Too much sleep is terribly bad. It’s laziness. Another example: Generosity is a wonderful virtue. However, when generosity to the poor means enabling the poor not to do for themselves what they should, then that generosity isn’t good either. It makes the poor not own their unique identity and self-image as people capable of working and earning their living.
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, we see this measured language of the balance between extremes. He writes: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).
We are who we are in Christ by the grace of God. This grace, God’s life in us, which enables us “to will and to work for his good pleasure” is not our making or merit. Yet, we are not to presume this grace, never to take it for granted. Saint Paul uses a strong language to remind us of the need to do our bit in the grace work “obey” and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).
This is similar to what Saint Augustine tells us that the “God who created you without you cannot save you without you.”
Nothing in life comes easy. Nothing we ever get comes to us on a platter of gold. God gives grace, but we have to accept the grace and work with the grace for it to bring about salvation and fulfilment in our lives of God’s plan.
Some will say, but the Psalmist tells us that the Lord promised, God gives blessings to people while they sleep (Ps 127:2). But that Psalm was to remind us of the need to cooperate with God and not to go it alone. In that Psalm, we see the same balance between grace and work, inspiration and perspiration.
God isn’t going to do for you what you must do for yourself. God isn’t going to make your bed or tie your shoes. God isn’t going to research the information for you to have a better future. He gives you the inner strength and grace and directs you with intuitions and answers. Did you listen when God spoke? Did you obey when God inspired?
Blessings flow to those who know that in life and in the spiritual life, when we cooperate with God and do our bit, we become the best we have been called to be. It is in doing so, we become great.
As the old saying attributed to St. Ignatius (though it is contested if he indeed said it) advises us to keep working as if everything depended on you and praying as if everything depended on God. Such a balance is key to faithfulness and success.
God love you. God bless you.,
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday Week 31 Ordinary Time B: Phil 2:12-18; Lk 14:25-33]
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.