Lent, Day 7, Grace, cont’d

2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Of the passages encountered in the Catholic catechism, this is the one that has the strongest resonance from my youth, and still resonates today.  In fact, this strikes me as one that would be especially dear to Unitarians and many people of faith — it’s what The Epistle of James is all about — “Faith, without works, is dead.”  There was a song we sang in Mass when I was a kid — “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  That song, too, seemed to imply that the love was manifested in deeds.  So, it is not enough to think right, but to live right by acting right.  

And the list of jobs one might fill are provided as examples and are not an exhaustive list.  The last three items, though, add something to the mix.  For it says the teacher manifests grace in teaching — nothing surprising here.  But it suggests that in contributions, be liberal — so don’t just give, but give generously;  and if you help someone, do it zealously, with enthusiasm;  and if you are kind to someone, do it cheerfully.  That last element has always hit home — often in giving help to another, we see it as something of a potential quid pro quo — we help Joe out now, and Joe owes us.  But this clearly says that you do kindnesses cheerfully, which implies that doing a kindness is or should be its own reward — it’s not some mercantile interchange, but a free gift.

It can be suggested that if we give freely and build up a community of wealth and good feelings, that will redound upon us, and, when we need that community, it will be there for us.  But there is something liberating about generosity.  Oftentimes, I find myself second guessing, but when we give freely of ourselves, that very act itself is an affirmation of positive intent to the world of which we are a part, and a statement that our gift, however small, has some value, and that we as the givers, have value.  For those who believe in a beneficent God, one could see that, in so acting, we are imitating God and making that divine blessing live in the world.

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