Grace to you!
Our Advent reflections on grace continue.
Consider the life of the Apostle Andrew, who was born in Bethsaida and received Jesus’ invitation by the Sea of Galilee. His younger brother was Simon, also called Peter, the leader of the Apostles. Both were fishermen. The name of Andrew, which means the brave or strong one, is beautiful. He courageously suffered martyrdom by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross, later nicknamed Saint Andrew’s Cross.
Many scholars suggest he was a very sociable person, earning him the honor as Patron Saint of social workers; and he is revered in Scotland as a national patron.
Scripture relates how the Lord called him and his brother. “As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men. At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-19).
I am fascinated by the abruptness and promptness of their response to Jesus’ invitation. It strikes me with the resonance of the unique function of the grace of God for particular actions. I see in this an example of the function of the grace called actual.
A definition of grace can’t get any better than this: “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) n. 1996). Biblical references for this idea are also given in John 1:12-18; 17:3; Romans 8:14-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4.
For us Catholics, grace is one. Thus, 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. One is sanctifying grace. The other is actual grace. Yet two others are sacramental grace and special graces or charism. I will explain each of these as our reflections evolve. For today, an introduction to actual grace as it relates to the feast day of Saint Andrew could aid our spiritual contemplation.
Actual graces refer to “God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification” (CCC 2000).
You recall that moment in your life when you chose, thanks to the grace of God, to live a holy life; a life consistent with the Lord’s invitation. It was actual grace empowering you to do so. It could be the Godly thoughts illumining your mind, or that holy inspiration exciting your will, so you say, “Yes, I believe. Yes, I do”
Andrew’s response was unique. Without grace, flowing from Christ to him and Peter, it wouldn’t have been possible. Actual graces, called so because referring to particular actions for God, are richly provided, day-by-day by the Lord, so you and I can think right and act right. Don’t we need more of it?
Andrew lived and thought like a fisherman by the shallow waters of Galilee. Christ’s invitation, loaded with the actual graces of conversion and discipleship, inspired his will and illumined his mind to live, think and become a “fisher of men” in the rich terrain of the world of peoples. God’s grace is incredible! It knows no bounds.
On this Day 4 of Advent, how about we meditate on that first moment we became aware of God’s love and presence in our life, what the Book of Revelation calls, “first love.” That first love could be refreshing as we partake of the grace-mysteries of Advent.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on Scriptural 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.