Monday, February 19, 2018

The Grace and Freedom of Life in the Spirit

In the first days of Lent, we are exhorted to prayer, fasting, and works of mercy, justice, charity, and compassion.

At the same time, we are reminded that our very capacity to do good and the value of all our good actions are themselves his gifts to us and his work through us in the world.

He is the Creator and Lord, which means also that he is ever the origin, sustenance, and fulfillment of love. He creates us as persons endowed with freedom and sustains us in being at every moment.

Moreover, the gift of his grace in Jesus Christ raises us up beyond ourselves to a participation in his infinite life and love, a "divinized" existence that is fulfilled in our eternal destiny, but that begins even in the here-and-now: in the ordinary circumstances, joys, responsibilities, and sufferings of this life on earth.

This is life in the Spirit, the path along which we are called to grow to full maturity in Christ, and to help one another in living this vocation. Our freedom is empowered by the gift of his grace, and our actions of sacrifice and love sustained by it.

It is true that we must cooperate with grace. When God our Creator and Redeemer works "in" our freedom, he doesn't take its place. Rather, he makes our personal freedom more free, more profoundly our own, just as in creating us he gives us (really) to ourselves.

To live in the Spirit—to live and act by the grace of God—is to live in freedom, to grow toward becoming the fullness of the unique person he is calling us to be with him and with our brothers and sisters forever.

Still, freedom cannot be forced. God wants to empower us to choose and attain happiness, to love him and share in his life. But he doesn't compel us to respond to him, adhere to him, or stay with him. We can ignore his call of love; he won't force us to journey with him on the road he has prepared for our happiness and fulfillment.

But we cannot make ourselves happy by our own power. All good comes from God. Without him we cannot be whole and good; we cannot be happy. Let us therefore turn to him and trust in the grace and love that he surrounds us with all through our lives.

This Collect prayer from the second day of the Lenten season expresses well our recognition of our total dependence on the grace and mercy of the God who loves us and wants to bring us to our fulfillment in his image and likeness:

         "Prompt our actions with your inspiration,
         we pray, O Lord,
         and further them with your constant help,
         that all we do may always begin from you
         and by you be brought to completion.
         Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
         who lives and reigns with you in the unity
         of the Holy Spirit,
         one God, for ever and ever."