Grace to you!
You may have heard the story of two people who performed the lyrics of Psalm 23--The Lord is My Shepherd. One was a professional actor who makes his living acting. The other was a shepherd who had never performed on stage.
The actor performed the shepherd’s psalm so well that he received the most thunderous standing ovation. When it was the shepherd’s time to perform, by no means did he observe any of the stage rules. Instead, he communicated the story of the psalm in such a way that everyone in the audience was spellbound, gripped by the profound and deep passion of the shepherd’s testimony. Some were shedding tears of admiration.
The difference between the two was evident. The actor knows about the sheep. He memorized every line. But the shepherd knows the sheep intimately. He breathes the sheep.
Have you contemplated the reason for the Incarnation, why Jesus became man? Many people’s minds go to the idea of atonement, which is somewhat a response, by negative theology, namely, to save us from sin, an aspect of which is furthered by the much debated negative logic—to pay the price for our sins. We tend to ignore the core, which is to enable us to participate in the divine life and reveal to us how that life is in him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has these answers, drawn from Scripture, to give: God became man in order to save us by reconciling us with God (CCC 457), so that we might know God’s love (CCC 458); to be our model of holiness (CCC 459); and to make us partakers of Divine nature (CCC 460).
This last one is hardly emphasized by many. It seems to me that no better blessing can we have than to partake in the divine life, the life of the Trinity. Salvation is partaking in the divine life. The apex of divine love is immersion in the Trinity; so also, holiness, which is life in God.
By the coming of Christ and the events of the Paschal mystery, we receive the fullness of grace for this participation in the life of the Trinity. The Incarnation is Grace for all. Grace is Jesus who came so we can become engrafted in the Trinity. Grace is the Son of God whose Incarnation makes real the ultimate vocation for humans to be deified.
If the Old Testament speaks of signs, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), the sign has already been fulfilled at the Incarnation. Matthew 1:18-24, describes the details of the birth of Jesus, the fulfillment of the sign, and connects it with the prophesy of Isaiah.
When people are still waiting for a sign, it’s because they have not recognized that the sign has already been fulfilled in Christ, “the fullness of divinity.”
Blessed be the name of the Lord that he has left for us the continuation of his presence through his Body the Church, who has been said to be in the form of a sacrament. “Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, 1).
Great mystery indeed. It’s the sign in continuation. Much more is the reality of the sacraments through which God lives in us, shares God’s life with us, forgives us, heals us, forms us into a new church of the home, calls us to the apostolic ministry as Saint Paul says, “the grace of apostleship” (Romans 1:5).
In the Church, we witness the profound union of Christ with his people. We, like the shepherd in our opening story, get to know the sheep intimately. Each sacrament that is granted to Christ’s body for the nourishment of her members, gifts us with unique graces oriented to make us more and more configured into Christ.
Tomorrow we continue this discussion by showing how the individual sacraments offer unique graces in us; hence, they are called sacramental grace.
For this Day 22 of Advent, ponder on your understanding of the Church and the sacraments? What is the Church for you, the body of Christ or simply a human institution set in opposition to Christ? Read the following letters of Saint Paul and meditate on them—Colossians 1:18, Ephesians1: 22-23, 3:19.
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.