Grace to you!
During a breakout session in a recent retreat I facilitated, a participant shared a beautiful story of his conversion. It wasn’t one of the usual dramatic scenes where a person has a unique experience of the divine, saw a vision, or simply hit bottom and was led to Christ. His was seamless, as he said, but equally significant.
It was during a quiet moment. He felt deep within his soul the tenderness of Divine Love and a stirring of the heart to reciprocate God’s love. In retrospect, he relishes that day. Ever since his conversion experience, there has been a consistent aspiration for the things of God and growth in the Spirit.
Many have witnessed similar experiences, those less dramatic touches of Divine Love and Mercy so powerful we can’t but confess how God draws us to Himself. It doesn’t matter how God touches us—dramatic or quiet. What matters is we are blessed to love and to be led by His Spirit.
The book of Sirach comprises salient points worth reflecting on regarding repentance and Divine Mercy. You may be aware the book of Sirach (also called Book of Ecclesiasticus) contains many nuggets of virtue. Little surprise many scholars call it the Book of Virtues. Consider the following line from that book: “Yet to those who repent he grants a return, and he encourages those whose endurance is failing” (Sirach 17:24).
While many see the call for sinners to repent, and the blessings of a penitent heart as an evident central message of this biblical verse, I see something really different and exciting. “To those who repent,” it says, “He (meaning God) grants a return…” It’s evident that God’s mercy-grace is spoken of here. It is God who actually grants us the favor of repentance.
Often, we tend to think repentance is by our power and an exclusive human determination. However, we may determine to have a change of heart from a particular sin, but God stirs true repentance from within. God mysteriously breaks into the most stubborn of hearts and grants His tender love and metanoia (conversion). This is consistent with the Church’s belief that conversion is by the grace of God.
Sirach again says; “He (God) encourages those whose endurance is failing.” Remorse for something we did in the past, or something evil or not moral we are planning to do is one side of the story, but to follow through with that remorse to a true change of heart calls for enduring choices. The endurance, to persevere in our decisions, is granted through the actual grace of God.
Therefore, are you frustrated that you seem not to follow through with your decisions to make better choices? Or are you concerned your loved one—child, sibling, spouse, friend, etc.— isn’t following through with the decision for true love and better choices in life? Ask God for the actual grace of persevering in your decisions. God is generous. He hears. He saves.
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.