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Corinthians i: 4-8.) Brethren, I give thanks to my God always for
you, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus, that in
all things you are made rich in him, in all utterance and in all
knowledge: as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that
nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the
manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ who also will confirm you
into the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord
GOSPEL (Matthew ix:
1-8.) At that time, Jesus entering into a boat, passed over the
water, and came into his own city. And behold, they brought to him
one sick of the palsy lying in a bed. And Jesus seeing their faith,
said to the man sick of the palsy: Be of good heart, son; thy sins
are forgiven thee. And behold, some of the Scribes said within
themselves: He blasphemeth. And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said:
Why do you think evil in your hearts? whether it is easier to say,
Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that
you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins
(then said he to the man sick of the palsy): Arise, take up thy bed,
and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into his house. And
the multitude seeing it feared, and glorified God who had given such
power to men.
“I give thanks to my God always for you,
for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus.”
The epistle this morning was
originally addressed by Saint Paul to the Corinthians, the inhabitants of
one of the Greek city-states in the central Mediterranean, where human
culture found its roots. The city of Corinth was a thriving metropolis in
Paul's time, a center for art, science, literature, and commerce in ancient
times. Even in modern terms, the Corinthians might be described as "well
Paul had been to Corinth, and had
established a church there; a thriving Christian community. And he wrote at
least two letters to them, in order to maintain them in the practice of
their Faith, and to correct their occasional failings.
Today's epistle is taken from the
opening of the first of Paul's letters to the church in this city. It is,
like the opening of many ancient letters, a little bit of flattery, intended
to show the writer's affection for his readers, and to put them in a
receptive frame of mind. But what do we hear Paul praising? Corinthian
art? Corinthian science? Corinthian trade?—No. Paul is much more
enthusiastic about the fact that the Corinthians had received the grace of
God. It was (and is) much more important than all of the worldly
achievements of the Corinthians.
So the Church proposes the grace of
God for our consideration during this Mass. And, what is Grace? In the
very wide sense, we can think of grace as anything we receive from God.
This would include worldly achievements, like those of the Corinthians; and
things like talent, and health, and children, and even life itself.
In a narrower sense, we think of
grace as a free and supernatural gift from God. It is free in that we have
no claim on it—God does not owe it to us. It is supernatural in that it is
above anything found in nature, comes only from God, (but may come to us
through natural means) and works to raise our natural selves to the level of
the supernatural. We can say that “grace perfects nature.”
There are a number of different
kinds of grace. For those who are baptized as adults there is “prevenient
grace,” (“prevenient” means “coming before”) which “enlightens the mind and
fires the will with a view to the work of salvation.”
This works in conjunction with “illuminating grace” which overcomes the
ignorance due to original sin. It may well be that this grace is received
through natural means—perhaps by hearing a sermon, or reading a book.
Baptismal grace then removes all
sin, both original and personal, imparts sanctifying grace and infused
virtues to make the soul radically holy, imparts the gifts of the Holy Ghost
and actual graces to enable the soul to live the Christian life. Baptism
marks one eternally as a Christian, and prepares the soul to receive the
Sanctifying grace, is a creation of
God that raises our soul up to a level where it is capable of union with
God. It makes us pleasing and holy in the sight of God, making us adopted
sons and daughters of God, and in some way, participating in the divine
nature of God. It is sometimes called habitual grace. Sanctifying grace
can be received only when we are without serious sin, normally by virtue of
Baptism or Penance. It can be increased through the reception of these and
other Sacraments, through prayer, penance, and good works.
We also speak of “actual grace,”
which is what raises us up to the level on which we can do good and avoid
evil. We say that it is an “illumination of the mind” or a “pious impulse
of the will,” which enables us to conform our hearts and minds with the
Divine Will. Actual grace is available, even to those who are in the state
of serious sin—for without it, it wouldn't be possible to rise above our
sinful inclinations, to amend our lives, or to return to God through the
Sacrament of Penance.
Finally, we speak of “uncreated
grace,” which can be identified with God Himself dwelling in our souls.
This is what we mean when we say that we are “temples of the Holy Ghost,”
for God pours out His love and abides in the souls of the just.
Remember that, as we said before,
“grace perfects nature.” Therefore, God's grace is something which we
should seek in our daily lives. It will perfect the running of society, in
that human beings will work together more harmoniously and with greater
purpose when they are united to God's will, and filled with His blessings.
It will likewise perfect our individual lives, and those of our families.
We must strive to be “Christ-like,” and make our families to be like the
It should be our constant endeavor
to maintain and increase God's graces within us. This means that we must
pray for the actual grace to avoid sin, or to raise ourselves out of it by
true contrition and Sacramental Confession. And it means that when we have
received sanctifying grace, we must preserve it through prayer, penance,
good works, and the Sacraments.
Perhaps this quest for grace also
means a readjustment of priorities for some or all of us. Just as Saint
Paul thought it more important to praise the Corinthians for their having
God's grace than for all of their material advantages, we need to come
around to the understanding that our life with God is more important than
all of our worldly goods. We need to place more importance on God, and less
on fancy homes, fast cars, rich food, and fine clothing.
God has given us grace, or the means
to obtain it. He has given us the means to increase in His grace, once we
have it. This is something that all of us share in common. Perhaps the one
thing remaining is for us to follow Saint Paul’s lead:
“To give thanks to God, always for the
grace of God that is given us in Christ Jesus,
that in all things we are made rich in Him.”