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God The Sanctifier Of Men . . . A Supernatural Gift Of God

September 3, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


There was once a priest who was giving a catechism class to a group of children in a Catholic school. At some point in his explanation of God’s love for us, the beauty of Heaven, and the angels, he said, “Who among you here wants to go to Heaven?” All of the kids raise their hands (they had been told by an older student that in Heaven you do not go to school). Then the priest asked again, “Now, who among you here wants to be a saint?” Two or three of the younger ones slowly raised their pinky finger.
The priest asked: “Why do you have so little interest in becoming a saint?”
The kids replied, “Oh, father, to be a saint is so boring . . . praying all day . . . going to Mass every day . . . reading big books, no fun — you know, this kind of thing.”
Then the priest replied: “OK, I’ve got good news and bad news for you. Here is the good news: God wants all of you to be in Heaven with Him forever!” All the kids clapped their hands and rejoiced.
“And the bad news?” the class leader asked. “Well,” replied the priest, “you don’t get to Heaven unless you are a saint.”
This little story illustrates a fundamental point in the Christian doctrine of salvation: only saints get to Heaven.
“Well,” you, the reader might say, “then we are all in trouble, because saints are in short supply these days.”
Yes, they are few and far between, but we can always spend a little holiday in Purgatory, get a nice tan, and purge ourselves of our little miseries, can’t we? Besides, we do not become saints on our own: As Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). It is God who sanctifies us; we do not sanctify ourselves. And here is the topic of this series of articles: How does God sanctify us?
In a few words, here is the truth: To be sanctified, we need divine grace and the sacraments.
As Pope Zosimus said: Christ, by His sufferings and death, won for us the right to be made children of God. We are made children of God by sanctifying grace, which we obtain chiefly through the sacraments.
Before the Sacrament of Baptism, we were creatures of God, not children. At Baptism, we were incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ, the Holy Catholic Church, and became children of God. Good or bad, living a virtuous life or a sinful one, but always His children.
You all know the parable of Jesus in which He compares the Kingdom of God — Heaven — with a Pearl of Great Price: A merchant of pearls finds a pearl, huge, great, beautiful beyond compare, and sells everything he possesses in order to buy it. So is Heaven: It is worth us giving everything away to get it. The solemn teaching of the Church on sanctifying grace is that it is a pearl of great price: a higher life, a participation in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Now please, let us read it again: It is a higher life, a participation in the divinity of Jesus Christ! Can we grasp its full meaning? It makes us children of God, brethren of Christ, and enthrones the Holy Spirit in our soul!
If you ask me how can we contemplate its beauty and know its efficacy, I will tell you that everything will be revealed after we cross the threshold of eternity. Then we will give thanks to God for all the good things He gave us, and even, if not especially, the crosses He allowed to happen to us, since they allowed us to be like Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry His cross.
Yes, its beauty is hidden in this life and its efficacy will be known only after death. You may ask: “But how is it caused in us?” It is caused in us by God through the humanity of Christ. With it we receive the divine virtues, the moral virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In adults, it is preserved and increased by good works, always bearing in mind that good works cannot be performed without actual grace. To make it easier to understand the reality and effects of grace in our souls, and how it works, let us break the doctrine into ten points. Please consider each of them one at a time:
By sanctifying grace, dwelling within our souls, we are made just, holy, or pleasing to God. That’s our ticket to Heaven, a one-way trip.
But when we commit a mortal sin, we lose our ticket, we lose sanctifying grace.
God gives sanctifying grace to different people in different ways, as it is not possessed by all just persons in the same amount or measure. You may get more — or less — grace than your neighbor; it all depends on God’s divine Providence. He knows best about who needs more grace and who needs less. We just say, “Thy will be done. . . .”
Divine grace is increased in our souls whenever we fulfill the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church; that’s our increase in merits and treasures in Heaven.
This is the real deal: By our good works, sanctified by grace, we truly merit eternal life, an increase of sanctifying grace and of glory hereafter in Heaven!
If we are faithful to divine grace until death, at the moment of our passing into eternity, it gives us the right to a degree of eternal happiness proportionate to our good works.
By ourselves, we can do nothing for salvation. Divine grace is always necessary for our good works to be meritorious.
Actual grace prepares the sinner or the unbeliever for the reception of sanctifying grace.
The first actual grace which God gives the sinner or the unbeliever is altogether gratuitous and cannot in any sense be merited.
To sum up, sanctifying grace, or habitual grace, is a supernatural gift of God by which the soul is made pleasing to Him. It removes all stain of grievous sin; it gives the soul a new and higher life, and fills it with splendor. It prepares the soul for that most intimate union with God which He has destined for it in the blessedness of Heaven.

God’s Friendship

Why is it called “sanctifying grace”? It is called sanctifying grace, because it sanctifies us, it makes us holy, with the Holiness of God Himself. It is no small gift! It is called a supernatural gift, because it is something to which no creature as such can ever have any natural right or claim. It is way beyond our ability to obtain by ourselves.
It is also called habitual grace, because it dwells and endures in the soul as a habitual, that is, permanent and constant, quality. It is also called justifying grace because by it the sinner is “justified,” that is, made just or righteous.
The only thing that can remove it from our souls and deprive us of God’s friendship is mortal sin.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is available to speak at Catholic events anywhere in the free world in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please email Sacred or visit or phone 507-450-4196 in the United States.)

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