Friday, December 9, 2022

Receiving the grace of the Sacraments in the Catholic faith.

There are many different forms or kinds of grace that are given to the Catholic in the Holy Catholic Church.  But before we get into the Sacraments of the Church, let us settle a common misconception or misunderstanding of many in the faith.  What is grace? 


Those who are familiar with the Scriptures would remember that St. Paul is known as the “apostle of grace.”  For a start, grace needs to be understood as a gift or a favour from God, but most importantly, it is a undeserved favour given by God.  Through grace, God inclines toward us, giving us gifts that are free and undeserved by sinners.  No one can earn grace or deserve them from God.  It is a demonstration of God’s mercy and love.  It is always free and undeserved.  A very good example of this is the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  God chose Mary as the means through which the world would receive Jesus Christ, the God-Man.  God wanted him to be born of a very humble and pure human woman, and Mary was the one vehicle chosen.  Mary didn’t deserve this choice, but it was a free and undeserved gift by God the Father.  She chose to remain ever-virgin after the birth of her son, and this too was a grace given by God.  Mary continues to live as the Queen of Heaven and Mother of God, even up to this day.  She is completely aware that she has been gifted by God through the free-gift of his unmerited grace, and together with the Apostles, she prayed and waited with the apostles for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit after Jesus was crucified and died on Golgotha. 


Tremendous power is given to us when we participate fully and freely in the seven Sacraments of the Church.  But the key to being beneficiaries of the grace of God is that we must participate in the sacraments fully and freely.  Yet, the one question that one has to consider how we are full and free when it comes to participating in the Sacraments of the Church.  Maybe the first question to be answered is what does grace give us in life?


In his letter to the Corinthians, St Paul says in his second letter to them that God is able to make all grace abound in us, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we may abound in every good work.  In the same letter, St Paul has Jesus say that “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  So grace, when viewed from these scripture passages, is not only a disposition or an inclination in the nature of God, but is also very importantly a power that works in us to change our capacities for work and suffering and obedience.  


Yet, the very important question is why is it that so many people are not in a state of grace when they bring themselves before the Sacraments of the Church?  It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the Catholics fail to make full and regular use of the grace given in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.  There are quite a number of Catholics who do not confess their habitual or mortal sins in regular confession, perhaps out of fear or being recognized by the confessor priest who is ministering to them in the Confession.  I’ve heard it so many times that many Catholics only would go to a priest who doesn’t know them to confess their sins.  While this may give them some degree of freedom and liberation, how many different priests can one go to regularly for Confession, especially in a country as small as Singapore?  Yet, the truth is that if you have the chance to speak to a Catholic who has truly made the very important and beautiful general confession in life, that celebration of the Sacrament had given him or her the greatest experience of being loved so unconditionally by our loving and forgiving God. 


As a priest who hears confession regularly as my ministry, I sometimes ask the question how often the penitent brings himself or herself to the Confessional and regularly is far from the norm.  It does appear that for many penitents, it is they who are the judges of what sin is a mortal sin and makes them unable to receive Holy Communion when at Mass.  But it is the truly humble penitent that admits that they go for Confession every three weeks or every month.  It gives me a certain sadness that so many Catholics seem to have a false notion of being in a state of grace, and it causes me to weekly offer up my abstinence and penances on Fridays for the conversion of many Catholics to come to truly appreciate the gift of being regularly in a state of grace in life.


God the Father has a true Divine desire that every sinful human being becomes as much as possible to be like his Son, Jesus Christ.  Being in a state of grace puts us very close to being like Jesus and living as his disciple.  I don’t believe that great number of Catholics have this divine hunger in them.  We all need the help of God’s grace to live in grace.  May we all muster enough desire in our hearts to pray for the many Catholics who need help to get them out of the rut they may be stuck in so that they too will be honestly reflective of their lives in living a holy and honest Catholic life.