23
Feb
15

Lent, Day 5, Grace cont’d

Sorry that I missed Saturday, which would have been Day 4, and Sundays are special days in Lent (they don’t count to the 40) so I take those off.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it:”

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing.

In the interest of getting back on track, I’ve included two passages for discussion today.

First, 2001: This continues the idea of Grace as something coming from God, something that is around us and in us which “formats” us towards a better life in union with God.  That humans can receive grace is itself an act of grace.  For me, again assuming for the sake of argument no personal deity, this would be something along the lines of believing that humans are formatted or outfitted to respond to the world around them in a positive way.  I think this is the case.  I think that fear and greed (which seems a form of fear, a fear of scarcity) leads one not to trust the universe, and to hedge one’s bets and prepare oneself for disaster.  This, I think, leads to a sense that the universe is a distinctly unfriendly place — dog eat dog — and so, not being able to trust in the world, one makes it to suit one’s own tastes.

Part of that trust, I would argue, is having some confidence in oneself to weather the harsh and dark events in our lives, and to offer some solace to others in a tough spot.  This fits with the idea of the interdependent web — just as there is a fabric beyond us of which we are a part, and which we should carefully tender and not rend, that fabric also supports us in our trouble.  We do well when we are receptive to the world around us, and responsive to it, and take responsibility for it.

Acknowledging that greater web of which we are a part can remind us to restrain our destructive impulses (we are not only hurting ourselves but the world around us, which supports and nourishes us);  acknowledging that we are an important part of that web can help us rise to the challenges of life and see its promises.  I think the Catholic Catechism, by focusing on God here, and on humans, would probably suggest that it is God and our acceptance of God that elevates us from nature, but the elevation thing troubles me.  We are part of nature, and it seems that nature is full of grace too.  It is in nature and in our fellow creatures that we can see some greater whole, and where we can find grace too.

2002 God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire:

If at the end of your very good works . . ., you rested on the seventh day, it was to foretell by the voice of your book that at the end of our works, which are indeed “very good” since you have given them to us, we shall also rest in you on the sabbath of eternal life.

Here, the Catechism brings up the matter of free will.  This is key to the Catholic system, in that it helps to address what might be seen as the failure of an all beneficent and interventionist God.  Though God invites us to love God, we must have the choice to refuse that love.  Such refusal is folly as it cuts us off from good in this world, and in the promise of a happy afterlife. I have to say that I like the idea of free will, even if I think it doesn’t go far enough to explain the idea of “evil” in the world, a world created by an all-loving and all-powerful deity.  True relations must be reciprocal, and if coercion is applied, we don’t have a true relationship.  What we have is a master-slave relationship, in which the slave has no real choice as s/he is compelled to do what the master wants.  Of course, here an emphasis on “eternal life” is placed.  If by “eternal life” we mean some heightened and aware existence, when we find ourselves in a flow state, in the groove, and experience something beyond, I find myself agreeing with this passage.  If we are talking about “life everlasting,” which the passage does not name, though the part about resting after our labors suggest a nod to the afterlife, I have more trouble.  Not only do I not believe in some existence after death (even if there is such an existence, I don’t see much value in letting it determine my life here, especially in the context of fear of eternal damnation), but I reject the idea of doing anything for that reward “in the sky.”

I do find something in this passage that speaks to me of relations.  When one is in a friendship or a romantic relation, one responds to clues to the other, but sometimes one responds to our misperceptions of those clues — we see in the other something that is not quite there.  At some point, one becomes deaf or blind to the proffers of connection from the other, and, if that continues, the relationship will eventually fail.  In that sense, from a Catholic perspective, continued ignoring of God’s offered hand (grace) will result in some barrier, and that barrier will make any benefit from the relationship null and void, and will eventually damage the relationship.

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