On Grace

Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins. Giovanni Paolo Pannini, 1744 Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins. Giovanni Paolo Pannini, 1744
    

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Great Apostle Paul says of himself: For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Cor. 15:9-10).

See how the greatest of the Apostles speaks of himself, that it was not he that had labored, it was not he that had done the great works, enlightened the whole world, but the grace of God which was with him. He does not ascribe anything to himself although great were his works, his sufferings for Christ were innumerable, but he attributes nothing to himself, only to God’s grace. Is it for us the weak, for us negligent Christians to ascribe to ourselves the good which we had performed once or will perform? Is it for us not to notice the source of all good—the grace of God?

The word “grace” you hear often, very often, at every divine service. The word “grace” may be found on almost every page of the New Testament, but in the Old Testament this word is rarely mentioned, very rarely, indeed. Why is it so: why is grace so often spoken of in the New Testament? Because the source of grace is in our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). This is the greatest grace, this is the source and beginning of all grace—the redemption of mankind through the Most Pure Blood of Christ: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).

We have received this gift gratis, we received gratis the redemption through Christ’s Blood. And the grace of God will overshadow any Christian who takes up his cross and follows Christ. Know that grace is necessary at the very beginning, so that we might take the path of salvation, the path of Christ, for the Lord Himself tells us: No man can come to me, except the Father which hat sent me to draw him (Jn. 6:44). It is necessary for God the Father Himself to draw us otherwise there is no beginning of the path of Christ.

We read in the Acts of the Apostles what happened in the Macedonian city of Philippi, to which Apostle Paul had come to preach the Gospel. He preached in the environs of the city, on the bank of a river upon which the synagogue stood. Among those listening was a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple … whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul (Acts 16:14). You see, the Lord Himself opened her heart, to listen to what Paul was saying.

Thus should the heart of each of us be touched by the finger of God and opened to perceive the great words of Christ. The grace of God is necessary at the beginning of our path to salvation. But can it be said that the grace of God is intended only for those who are predetermined for Eternal Life, that they alone can attain grace? Not at all: grace is the outpouring of the immeasurable love of God, and His love is directed to all His creation, and above all to mankind, and, therefore, the grace of God overshadows the hearts of all men; for it says in the Scripture that God is the Father of all men—of both Jews and Gentiles. He is good to all (Rom. 10:12). God will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, then man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:4-6)—for the whole of mankind. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).

How can this be made to agree with the fact that at the beginning of faith in Christ there must be the grace of God? There is no contradiction here, as there is not, and cannot be, in any sayings of the Holy Scripture. The immense love of God the Father is open to the whole world and His grace pours out on everyone. But does everyone accept this grace? Are there not many who trample upon it with their sins? God wants to give them grace too, but they reject it. Men are free; God does not force His grace upon anyone: He merely offers it to everybody; He is ready to give it to everybody.

Is it sufficient for us to receive grace once from God, which sanctifies us in the great Sacrament of Baptism? No, it is not sufficient, not at all, we need much, much more. Know that for a virtuous life, to gain Christian virtues, to follow the thorny path of Christ, one must constantly receive God’s grace. Only sanctified by grace can we traverse the hard, thorny path, full of suffering, after Christ. We must learn to trust God, love Christ, and remember always His holy words: I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (Jn. 15:1-2; 4-5).

Remember these words well: without me ye can do nothing. If you do not abide in the love of Christ, if you are not fed by the juices from the root of the Divine Vine, then you cannot perform any good, and you shall remain alone in your feebleness, in your wretchedness. Everything that is done in you by the grace of God is done by the Father Himself through Jesus Christ: He alone will confirm you in all your good deeds, and without Him you can do nothing.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (1 Cor. 3:16). Do you not know that it is only when you become a pure temple of God that the Holy Spirit will dwell in you? If you do everything good and pure with all your might, then you shall bear fruit of righteousness, fruit of goodness and holiness. Pray to God every day: “Our Father … lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One.” Are we not delivered from the Evil One with the help of the Father? Must we not ask for God’s help of grace to deliver us from all the snare of the Devil? And how often you hear at every divine service the holy words of the Litany: “Protect us, save us, have mercy upon us, and preserve us, O God, by Thy grace,” “That we may spend the rest of our days in peace and repentance, we beseech Thee, O Lord.” We repeat these petitions so often because we cannot take a single good step without God. And when we receive God’s grace should we not thank Him for this with all our hearts? Should we not thank the Father Who sent the Holy Spirit and our Redeemer and Savior the Lord Jesus Christ, Who with His Blood opened the inexhaustible fountain of Divine Grace?

Oh, how grateful we should be! Oh, how thankful we must be for all and everything—for the good and the evil; for the joy and the sorrow; and for the suffering and trials we must be grateful to God Who leads us along the path of salvation, not only by way of happiness, but above all and most of all by way of suffering.

May the Lord give you the abundant grace of His Holy Spirit and may He fill your hearts with meekness and filial gratitude to Him for the Blood of our Savior. Amen.

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