"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Grace as Receiving, Giving, Longing and Nurturing


L
et us take the fourfold aspects of grace as receiving, giving, longing, and nurturing. First, Pope Benedict XVI gives his definition of grace as gift received in his book Jesus of Nazareth, I quote, “The highest things,” he says, “the things that really matter, we cannot achieve on our own; we have to accept them as gifts and enter into the dynamic of the gift” (Italics mine). The Greek for grace as gift is χάρισμα (khárisma), which means "favor freely given" or "gift of grace."

Formation years in the consecrated life are long and arduous because we carefully discern not only the fact of having been given the grace of vocation but whether or not it was freely received. We go back—way back when we were growing up. Was there a call hidden in those years? Vocation discernment is a form of acknowledging, receiving or accepting a free gift from the Lord. The Lord is the one who gives it freely, we cannot create it. Then only afterwards we receive it. But it has to come from the Lord in the dynamic of the gift. The dynamic of a gift is best understood in the context of one friend giving to another friend. The gift we receive in the context of friendship is given freely, and received freely as gift. That is what we call gratuitous. There are people who fail at first to recognize a relationship and friendship with the Lord. They decide to enter the seminary or consecrated life when in fact it is just their parents’ wish or someone else’s. In that way it is so hard to locate any gift. In the epic film Titanic, Rose (Kate Winslet) is gifted with a rare diamond by her fiancé whom she does not love. There is no true love or true friendship. That's a disgrace. In this case the gemstone, no matter how precious, is not received. Why? It was not given gratuitously, there was no friendship and no genuine love in the gift giving.

Second, giving as grace, i.e., gifting as a gratuitous giving. There are those who say it is better to give than to receive. Actually, this is what our Lord has taught, “Give, and it will be given to you… They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Lk 6:38). When God gifts, it overflows. This image of grace was used by Pope Francis—grace as “overflow.” How can we describe the Peter’s giving up of everything? He said to Jesus, ‘We have given up everything and followed you.’ In my reflection, Peter’s view of things seems to be like the proverbial “cart before the horse” or the horse as the one pushing the cart. When it comes to grace, there is the giving that comes first and always. Everything we have is because it was given first and there is nothing that we have that we have not received first. I would catch myself too, just like Peter did, counting the cost whenever I fail to see the giver and my eyes get focused on myself and my two limited hands deciding whether I should let go or not. But the opposite is true, it is not us, but God, for God loved us first and has given first, and God gave in abundance to all.

Often times, the problem I think lies in us measuring too little. No wonder the Lord said “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” But for those who desire and measure beyond measure, those who forgive not only seven times but seventy times seven, i.e., to forgive without counting, so much more will be given to them. Lord help us in our daily examen to connect the dots of how much we have received everyday and how much you give of your graces that are always beyond what is measurable.

“Give, and it will be given to you.” The Lord said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come" (Mk 10:29-30). There is always the cross as part of the abundance of grace. A number of times Peter failed to grasp this and he avoided the cross of suffering.

The third aspect of grace is longing or desiring for the grace. Grace, does not just wish to be received as a gift, it also wishes to be longed for and to be greatly desired. The presence of grace creates the emptiness in our hearts which the same grace alone could fill. This is often the experience of people who are in the stage of soul searching. Even if one possesses all the material security, but why is there still a feeling of emptiness. This was the experience of the rich young man. The young man goes away sad because he had many possessions or inordinate desires. The man faces a breaking point where he does not know anymore his true identity. He is lost in the multiplicity of his interior and conflicting desires. Suddenly he is awakened to see a worldview that is now imprisoning. He is the proverbial victim of one’s own success.

The original Spanish for “begging for the grace” is “demandar lo que quiero”—demand that which I want. When we go to a restaurant and we would like to complain about something, many of us would normally demand to talk to the manager or to the one in charge. Similarly, this is what we are doing with each “demandar lo que quiero.” St Ignatius urges us to desire, i.e., to demand seeing God Himself and not for anything that is less than God. But we all vary in our degrees of desire for God which demands one’s growth in spiritual maturity and freedom. Like in any human relationship, the desire to be with each other must be allowed to grow first and then a serious relationship will eventually take shape. Therefore constancy in desiring and longing is a great spiritual virtue to cultivate in prayer. St Ignatius holds that it does not matter how short or how long the prayer period will take for as long as the goal is achieved, i.e., “To have God always before one’s eyes.” To fix our gaze solely on one thing would already be a big grace to receive in a single formal prayer period, let alone to find God. But to be able to fix one’s own gaze and dwell in God’s presence and not only find Him, would be a taste of eternity.

The fourth aspect of grace is grace as caring and nurturing—gracious care, tenderness. If we have a loving God and we profess every Sunday liturgy to believe in such a God then this God must be very near. Because God’s charisma is nearness and tenderness. When we are most tender and compassionate, and merciful, then that means we are closest to God’s presence. He is never distant but he is tenderly close. Benedict XVI says “It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice” (Deus Caritas Est 10). For “love ought to manifest itself more in deeds than in words.” But let us not forget that, first, there has to be love. Simply put “they do not love who do not show their love” (Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona). This is the effect of grace as charisma. It transforms us to be more lovingly tender to ourselves and to others. If we are not then something is wrong. The sign of sanctity, i.e., to be holy means to be loving and tender like God. Tenderness is godliness. If we wish to receive more of this tenderness then lavishly give tenderness. If you feel you are harsh still to yourself, then desire, no less than God and his lavish and tender care. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Thank you po Fr. JM for this wonderful reflection on grace...

    I was struck by this image of Christ on the Cross.. Contemplating the picture and connecting it with your heartily reflection, I came to realize that grace is much more that we can imagine... The first recipient of an Infinite grace from the Father is no other than Jesus... That peaceful smile while He was hanging on the cross gave me shivers and at the same time shame for all of my complainings and discontentments..

    Sufferings, as what we sometimes see as our crosses, can be accepted peacefully and with a smile if we believe that God will give us all the grace to get through them... If we believe that God, in His great love for us, will never abandon us...

    As in 2 Corinthians 19,
    "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

    Thank you once more, Fr. JM, for posting again your reflections.. I missed reading them... I hope you are well... God bless you.. :')

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing and most especially for the fruit of your prayer regarding the person of Jesus who is personification of the fullness of God's grace! GBU!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *2 Cor. 12:9

      Sorry for the error... :')

      Thanks much!
      God bless you...

      Delete
  3. Embracing Grace freely
    She then shared herself willingly
    Longing to be one with Her essence
    Need time, patient perseverance and presence
    Transforming to Be
    Nurturing and tender loving as She
    What a joy being united to Grace
    Bringing peaceful smile to every face

    Personally appreciated much your grace filled sharing!
    Cuidate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your mirroring back of the true essence of grace, especially about Jesus who is smiling. Indeed, all of grace is about tenderness! GBU!😇

      Delete
    2. Tenderness... Be nurturing... What I like most in your sharing. Somehow I can feel the strong invitation to grow in this area... And I love that smile of our dear Jesus...Smile though your heart is aching.. As the song goes... Basta mahal, kaya... I think I saw this crucifix before somewhere... Where can we find this Fr. JM?

      Delete
    3. Thanks for your sharing! I was told that the smiling crucified Jesus is in the chapel at the castle of St Francis Xavier in Northern Spain! GBU!

      Delete
    4. Agyamanak unay! Dios ti kumuyog tayo! 😊

      Delete

Post a Comment

Thank you for your interest in the above post. When you make a comment, I would personally read it first before it gets published with my response.