Grace is a basic word in our Catholic vocabulary. Grace has to do with the movement of God within us. Grace is dynamic. It is God taking us somewhere, showing us something, reminding of us of something, showing us an answer, giving us a solution, providing us with reassurance, healing us, reconciling us, nourishing us, calling us to something.
Grace is a gift. It cannot be earned. At the same time, it helps if we are open to receiving it. St. Thomas Aquinas says that “grace builds on nature.” That means that grace works with what it has to work with. A major part of our spiritual life is to be open to God’s grace and to work with the graces that we are given.
With Francis our Jesuit pope, we are learning more and more about Jesuit spirituality. One of the aspects of this spirituality is to pray for specific graces and the openness to receiving them in particular circumstances. Recent world events might motivate us to do just that.
The escalating conflict between Israelis and Palestinians could urge us to pray for the grace of restraint, taking great care in situations of intense pressure not to impose responses that will create more harm than the initial provocations. The terrible tragedy of the shooting down of the Malaysian jetliner could move us to pray for the grace of perspective, taking care that reaching our own personal goals does not happen at the expense of others. The arrival of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children into our country could inspire us to pray for the grace of solidarity, the capacity to remember, even if it was only one time, the terrible desperation of knowing that your child was in grave danger and aligning ourselves with other parents who are experiencing the same.
In the midst of world events that can provoke the potent emotions of anger, fear, revenge and even desperation, it is exactly the time to open ourselves to letting God’s grace do its amazing work.