The word “Grace” has become so familiar to us, so “commonplace” that we forget its power in all things, over all matter; “All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.”(1) The conflict Christians have in this world is not found in the form of a struggle, for the ruler of this world knows that a struggle is actually a blessing, that draws us nearer to God. So the ruler of this world does not want us to struggle, but rather to provide us with a deceptive life of ease and comfort. In a meaning, a life of ease and comfort, devoid of struggle, is a life without a deep calling to God for strength, for peace, and for Grace. And buried in this fertile soil of leisurely living sprout the seeds of vanity and their ever-growing tentacles of influence in our decision-making.
Father Matta El-Meskeen (also known as Matthew the Poor) says; “Grace is a Divine outpouring gift to the person living in the true faith.” And our only price of admission to receive this gift is Faith. But not faith as some abstract parameter whereby we define a class of people as believers and non-believers, nor as a weapon, but as a tool, a Post-It® note if you will to remind us that Grace has power over all things great and small – moment to moment. “The glory which you have given to me I have given to them.”(2) The power that Christ has is given to us. We need only remind ourselves of this Grace.
The goal of Grace is a partnership with us. That we may share in His glory. And it is both for believers as well as non-believers alike. To God, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Jesus Christ. ”(3) Though the fullness of Grace is only through Jesus Christ, Grace is for all. And too, Grace can choose a time that best suits His needs, for only He knows when the time is right when; a believer may be cleansed, a devoted follower may glorify God to the fullest, or a non-believer may become a believer.
In Hebrews, St. Paul asks us to “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find Grace to help in time of need.”(4) Do we define this “time of need”? Does some current struggle, tribulation or trial, which causes us to beg God for strength and mercy, define this time of need? Could we possibly think that it is within our power to define the time and place where God will grace us? Absolutely not. Our need for Him was and is defined by Him at a time of His choosing. For long before we fall, long before we begin to suffer the “slings and arrows” of strife, there is the presence of God’s Will in us even when we commit those sinful acts that lead us to fall. In a meaning, God removes Himself at the proclamation of our own vanity, our own greed, and our own lust. He steps back that we may receive the just rewards for our faulty choices, thus the fall. But then, this very fall leads us back to begging God for strength, help and mercy. In this state of weakness we are made strong in Him. For born from each Divine struggle is not only a strength and resolve in us to return to the Father, but also a cleansing and “pruning” of our former dead living. And too, to strengthen our faith in God and thus the fullness of Grace is welcomed, embraced and savored – Savor the Savior. A man satisfied with a filled belly that approaches the banquet, savors not the feast that lay before him. But the hungered man of need marvels at the sweetness of each and every morsel of food. Do we approach the altar with a fullness of comfort brought upon us by the clothes we wear, the house we live in or the car we drive? Are we so satisfied with our own accomplishments and ourselves that we dare to think I don’t need anything?
We began this talk with the title “Grace Descends to Achieve Unity”. Note the present tense use of the word “Descends” as opposed to the past tense “Descended”. For if reference the Incarnated God, Jesus Christ, we would say “God Descended to Achieve Unity”. But the point here tonight is to reminds us that this Grace is ever-present, ready to descend upon us to help us reconcile with God and regain unity with Him, through Him, in Him. Whether we call upon Him for help or not, Grace descends upon us by His will for the sole purpose of bringing us back to Him, to reunite with Him and depart our sinful ways.
A fall is not caused by a single sin or act of defiance. For each sin is nothing more than a deviation from the path. The cause of our fall is brought upon us by a series of steps that led us away from the path.
The eating of the forbidden fruit was but one action in a series of actions that led to the fall of man.
Step 1: The free will choice to trust the words of the serpent over the command of God.
Step 2: The defiant act that we know better for ourselves than God.
Step 3: Relinquishing of control over ourselves to the desire for the fruit, “it was pleasant to the eyes,”(5)
Step 4: The self-glorification of our defiance and the need to draw others into the act of defying God’s Will.
Step 5: The deception, the hiding from God.
Step 6: The blaming of others, the proclamation of innocence and the total absence of confession. For when we deny our own participation in a sinful act, we bury this disease within us for it to infect us at a later date. But as we all know, when we confess, we remove it from us and are set free from its influence in our life and in our thinking.
The fall of mankind was not caused by one sinful act of defiance, but brought upon us by a series of faulty choices. It is not the action of the sinner that is judged, but the thinking that led the person to believe that what they did was okay, that they were justified in doing what they did.
As we have been taught, forgiveness and redemption is the free gift of God. But to unify with Him, Grace must descend upon us. Was this need for the free gift of forgiveness and redemption defined by the acts of Adam or Eve? Was the need for loving and merciful Lord God to descend brought about because man defined this need? Long before the Gospels, long before the prophets, long before Moses, Noah, and Abraham; Jesus Christ, the incarnated God, “was in the beginning with God,”(6) and said “Let Us make man in Our image,”(7) So before the fall of Adam and even before the creation of man, God defined the time and place of His descending. God knew of the need before we were even a sparkle of creation. So long before we commit our sinful acts, God knows and is ready to catch us and bless us with His Grace, that we may be justified to unite with Him.
All the multitude cried out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And Pontius Pilot washed his hands saying, ”I am innocent of His blood.” And we, the chosen ones, the children of God, replied, “Let His blood be upon us and our children.” (8) What we intended to be a curse, to display our disgust at the arrogance of this Man to claim equality with God; what we clearly proclaimed and threw at God, He returned to us as a blessing – His Blood, the Eucharist, is now our salvation.
God knows our “secret faults ”(9) and therefore knows what each us needs to return to Him. He pays great attention to both those begging for Grace, and those quiet unintentional pleas for the hope of life; “but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our savior appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness,” but by virtue of His own mercy and love for us, “so that we might be justified by His Grace, and become heirs in the hope of eternal life.”
Glory Be to God – Amen.
(1) John 1:3
(2) John 17:22
(3) Galations 3:28
(4) Hebrews 4:16
(5) Genesis 3:6
(6) John 1:2
(7) Genesis 1:26
(8) Matthew 27:23-26
(9) Psalm 19:12
(10) Titus 3:4-7