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      What is Grace ?

I am always amazed whenever I discover how many laypeople do not know what grace is. Their lack of knowledge becomes more apparent when the subject of sanctifying grace is brought up. However, I can understand this lack of knowledge because I remember years ago when one day I asked a priest in Confession what grace was.

Many laypeople have heard the word grace and have used the word grace but they are not able to explain what grace really is.

Actually, there are many different ways to explain the meaning of grace. My favorite explanation is that grace is God's gift to us. Grace comes to us through God's love for us. If God did not love us we could not receive His grace. BecauseGod does love us; His love becomes a precious gift to us and with this love comes the gift of grace for our souls. The most amazing part of this is that grace given to our souls makes our souls able to absorb His love. In other words, God prepares our souls by grace so that we can receive the gift of His love. You cannot separate grace from the love, which God has for us.

However, this grace which comes to us through God's love is much more than an expression of God's love for us. This grace has the power to completely change a soul's state from that of darkness to light. Theologians call this type of grace sanctifying grace. We first receive sanctifying grace when we are baptized. The soul born in the darkness of original sin casts aside its garments of gloom and becomes united with God and with His love, communicating with him in a state of brilliant light.

By sanctifying grace, a person is elevated above fallen human nature and becomes a true child of God heir to the kingdom of Heaven, and most pleasing to the eyes of God.

A soul in the state of grace begins a relationship of love between God and itself. God's love descends upon His child and the child returns love for love, all of which silently transpires in the sunlight of the grace which God's love gave to the soul in the first place. In other words, God's gift of grace to the soul enabled the soul to become the object of affection for God.

You must see how God so desires to communicate His love to His children that he sends grace so that such a relationship can be possible. That is why grace comes from and through His love for His children. Love prepares the soul for love.

You may wonder why God went to the trouble of preparing our souls so that we can share a relationship of love with Him. The answer to that is that God's love is infinite and perfect and He wanted to share His perfect love with us His imperfect children. Everything, which God did for us, love prompted Him to do it. In the Old Testament we read: "For you are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; He has chosen you . . . It was because the Lord loved you.  It (DT 7: 67). The New Testament is filled with words which tell us how much God loves us. Saint Paul wrote: "And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2: 20).

Now, the one thing that interferes with the relationship of love between God and His child is sin: especially mortal sin. Mortal sin is the deathblow to the light in the soul wherein God and His love dwell. Mortal sin is called mortal because it kills the light in the soul, the light called grace, the grace which God's love gave to the soul in order to have a dwelling place for His love.

God foresaw the way mortal sin would destroy His dwelling place in a soul which grace built for Him. He could not bear the thoughts of being separated from His children when grace departed from the soul. So he gave to His children the way to receive back the grace which they destroyed by sin. The way is called Confession.

Confession is truly a gift of God's love for weak human beings. Once again you can see how much God wants to have a love for love relationship with His children. If sin can destroy, then love can rebuild! Through Confession, grace is restored to the soul: God's dwelling place of light in the soul is rebuilt; the child of God can once again resume the relationship of love between the Creator and the creature. The soul once again is raised into the supernatural life which sanctifying grace placed it in.

In addition to sanctifying grace, there is what is called actual grace. The best way to explain actual grace is to say that even when God has established a love for love relationship with His child, He is not satisfied. He longs to enlighten the soul further. He longs to develop a closer union with His beloved one. So He allows His grace in a soul to increase.

Actual grace gives the person more awareness of God and His love dwelling in the soul. Actual grace brings greater joy and consolation to the soul as it slowly realizes just how much God loves it.

However, even though grace is freely given to the soul, the person has to do his part. The more the person prays, does penance, receives the Sacraments the more grace he will receive. These are the ways which God has given to His children so that the grace in their souls can increase.

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