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What Is Divine Grace?. . . Acts That Are Pleasing To God

August 13, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 1

“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” So many times, we repeat this prayer, recalling the great day when our Lady said “yes” to the angel and God entered human history and walked the Earth bodily as one of us. And as Mary became the Mother of God Incarnate, we praise and thank her for accepting the invitation of God.
Notice that the angel said she was “full of grace.” In this series of articles, we will study what is that “grace” that filled her being to overflowing.
A general definition of grace is this: Grace is a supernatural gift created by God that enables us to participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity. And there are two main types of grace, namely, actual grace and sanctifying grace.
Let us begin with actual grace: It is a spiritual gift that is both supernatural and transient. It is super-natural, because it helps toward the happiness to which we, as creatures, can have no claim: the glory in Heaven. It is a transient gift, or a passing aid, to help us do something good for our salvation. It is present in the soul only while the soul is acting. It is like the electric current which, passing for an instant through the wire wound around an iron bar, gives the bar a momentary magnetic power.
Actual grace is a supernatural gift of God that enables us to do something toward eternal life. It is important to point out that we, as creatures, are not able to gain eternal life on our own. God gives it to us, and, to help us toward eternal life He gives us His grace. Neither faith alone nor good works alone will get us to Heaven.
Here we have three distinct elements to consider, all three being God-given: nature, grace, glory. By creating us, God gave us our nature, our human nature. His grace perfects our nature, in order to enjoy glory in Heaven.
Actual grace makes our acts pleasing to God because it makes them like the acts of Christ as Man. So, for instance, when by actual grace a sinner is made aware of his wickedness and begins to shrink from it as something detestable, his mind and his will are freely repeating the acts of the human mind and will of Jesus. He is acting as Jesus would act if He were in the sinner’s place, or as Jesus wants the sinner to act.
The repentant sinner is beginning to see and feel, though obscurely, some of that dread vision of sin which filled the mind and oppressed the Heart of Jesus at Gethsemane. The actual grace of contrition acts in us when we are moved to acknowledge our sins and to ask for God’s forgiveness.
Actual grace also acts in a just man, when he is moved to advance higher in virtue: In so doing, he is but reproducing, or copying, in his imperfect way, the human acts of divine love that are constantly welling up in the Mind and the Heart of the Savior.
So, we say that actual grace makes our acts pleasing to God. It does so by adding to them a divine or Christ-like quality or flavor which we could not give them from our own natural powers.
More concretely, actual grace works in our souls in a twofold manner: 1) it enlightens our understanding, our mind, our intellect, and 2) it strengthens our will and reduces the attractiveness of evil. In short, it is a defense mechanism against sin.
How does the actual grace enlighten our mind? How does it help us to understand reality better, especially supernatural realities? It helps us to perceive the truths of faith; it helps us to keep them in mind; it helps us to reason correctly about them; it helps us to know what we should believe and do. It helps us to think the thoughts that God’s grace has awakened in us.
How does actual grace strengthen our will? It inspires our will with the desire of pleasing God; with fear of His anger; with zeal for His service; and with desire for the happiness of His love.
How does actual grace help lessen the attractiveness of sin? It helps us to fight down our passions. Because God does not force us to accept His actual graces, but actual grace has the power, if we obey its impulse, to bind our hearts so firmly to God that nothing outside ourselves can ever relax its hold. We stand firm.
There is yet another interesting aspect about the work of actual grace: It acts both in the soul and the body of a person. Yes, actual grace does not act on the soul alone: It acts on the body, too. Because there is an intimate union of soul and body in the living man, it follows that every act of the intellect or the will is accompanied by some vibration or movement in the nervous system.
So, one may argue that the actual grace also influences the body. Take, for instance, the case of a drunkard who receives an actual grace and realizes his situation of vice. The actual grace will not only help his will to stop drinking, or at least to drink less and less, but will also help reduce his bodily desire to drink alcohol. Thus, God uses circumstances or incidents, apparently casual, to give us actual grace.
Another example: the case of a man who enters a church to get out of the rain. While he is there, waiting in the vestibule, he glances at a religious book. The title attracts his curiosity, and, having nothing else to do, he decides to browse through it while it is still raining outside. Suddenly, he stumbles across a phrase that appears to speak directly to him. His mind and heart are touched by an actual grace that inspire him to go Confession, or to pay an old debt, or to apologize to someone.
What appears to be purposeless ends up having a lot of purpose, because we know that God uses such incidents to inspire the conversion of sinners. He sends His actual graces at the right moment and at the right time.
A third example: The wound which the Spanish soldier Ignatius Loyola received at the 1521 siege of Pamplona seemed to be a mere accident, but it was the natural means God employed to make him a great saint.
However, St. Ignatius’ reading of the Lives of the Saints during his hours of convalescence would have been nothing more than the pastime he intended it to be, had not God’s grace been at work in him. Thus, actual grace is a supernatural help from God, which, working within us, enlightens our mind and moves our will to do good and avoid evil for the sake of eternal life.
Let us pray to receive these graces all the time!

+ + +

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

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