Stories of Coming Home
This morning I was blessed to read a testimony of a convert to the Catholic Faith. I respect our protestant brothers and sisters who devoutly keep their faith ,while at the same time, I feel blessed to be born into the Catholic Faith. A phrase that really got into me from the testimony is the assertion that some who are born as Catholics need to understand and love their faith deeper than they do now because converts from Protestantism, in immersing themselves into the richness of Truth in the Church, put to them to shame in their complacency.
There is the question of sola scriptura, sola fide, works, and grace in the article and the question begs, “What can save man?” Is it by scripture alone, or faith alone, or works, or grace? Protestants have long taught that scripture alone holds authority and faith alone brings salvation. Catholic Catechism I have read taught me that it is a triumvirate of faith, work, and God’s grace.
Allow me to bring you along my train of thoughts…
Adhering to my Faith, I believe that God’s grace prompts us to have faith in Jesus and gives us strength to do good works. Our faith is the root of our works while our works will not be enough without faith. We need to do both otherwise we fall into error. Yet it is not enough still, for it is not by power of man that man saves himself.
And this brings me to a dilemma. Can I then ask God to give give me grace that I may be saved? Would my asking be from my own strength or is it still grace coming from God? I remember St Paul saying that everything is Grace. I would opine that even the act of seeking redemption is grace. But then, philosophizing about it, if it is by grace that I seek redemption, why is it that not all men seek redemption? Does God play favorites with His grace?
Now I feel I am in dangerous waters. I must be missing something… and yes, there is something wrong in how I understand God’s grace.
God by nature is all-Benevolent. He lavish with His Grace and He showers it on everyone and everything there is. I would go on to say that the universe is immersed in God’s grace. Since it is the will of God that every man be saved, then everything must be working hard to ensure man’s salvation. The universe and all that is in it has been sweating it out to guide us to salvation.
Isn’t it that the stars have been faithful enough to shine every night that our wonder may be aroused and we may ask who made them? Isn’t it that the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze, the verdant lush all speak of beauty and intricate design that brings us back to God? Isn’t the phenomenon of life an outstanding breakaway from an infinite statistical improbability in a universe of entropy? Yes, everything has been grace. My life, my history, my person, and my being have all been grace that were given that I might find Him.
Going back to the question of why not all men are seeking redemption, I discover that each man does and years for God. The question of happiness, its search, and man’s perennial failure and retry to find it is indicative that he is looking for something, or someone. And here, I see a play between Divine Will and Human will.
While Grace has been at work all along, in the foreground and background, consciously or unconsciously to man, the choice of redemption is all up to man. God patiently waits for man. He inspires him, He bombards him with beauty, goodness, and knowledge, and in His power orchestrates the universe to play music, and He waits for man to join in singing. He does not force, he inspires.
However, the human condition is complex.
Each one of us has a story, has his own interior life, his own person and character. The beautiful thing is, God deals with us individually, as if we are the only one left to be saved in the universe.
And so we get different responses. Some easily open up and say yes to God’s invitation. Some take a lot of prodding. And some are still trapped in their human condition still waiting for a spark of light.
Back with the triumvirate of Grace, faith, and work, I see the primacy of God’s grace in human redemption. It is not by man’s power that man is saved but by God. In the question of sola scriptura, there is a need to ask if God’s grace can only be found in and limited to scripture. In the teaching of sola fide, there is a need to ask if man’s faith is equal to God’s grace. In the idea of working our way to heaven, there is a need to ask if we all have the energy to finish such work.
We need to discover the graces that God has peppered into our existence that we may be saved. It could be the Communion within the Church, the Sacraments, our loved ones, our daily tasks, or even this internet connection we now enjoy. It is the ultimate generosity and love of God that saves.
There is so much to discover. There is so much to treasure.
Such is the love of God – unmerited and lavish.