Doctrine of Grace

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We have learned that God created each one of us to know, love, and serve him on earth, and to live with him for ever in Heaven.  This is the purpose of our lives.  So it must be very important that we learn how to do these things as best we can.

But this is an impossible task for us.  How can we, who have been separated from God because of original sin, reach the greatness of Heaven?  We cannot!  That is, we cannot unless God comes to our help with his grace.

Grace is a supernatural gift from God given to us through Jesus Christ.  It is called supernatural because it is far above our natural human powers.  It is even above the powers of God's greatest creatures, the mighty angels!  It is called a free gift because it is something we do not have a right to - God gives it to us simply because he loves us.

God's Greatest Gift: Sanctifying Grace

Because of original sin all of us are conceived without the gift of grace in our souls.  There have been only two exceptions: Jesus, who being God was always full of grace, and his mother Mary, who received grace at the moment of her conception in her mother's womb.

Sanctifying grace makes us holy and pleasing to God; it makes us his adopted children and temples of the Holy Spirit.  It gives us the right to live in Heaven.  This is why it is called God's greatest gift to us.  There is only one thing that can ever take this gift away from us: mortal sin.

Sanctifying grace gives us a share in God's life.  There are different kinds of life in the world.  A living tree has plant life by which it can grow, blossom, and bear fruit.  A dog has animal life that makes it better than a tree.  It can see, hear, and move about.  People have human life that allows us to think, to love, and to communicate ideas.  But God's life which comes to us through grace is the greatest of them all, for with it we can live in Heaven.  Without it we cannot.

Along with giving us a share in God's life, sanctifying grace gives us three supernatural powers: faith, hope, and charity.

We receive sanctifying grace in the seven sacraments of the Church.  Baptism first gives this new life to our souls and Confirmation strengthens it.  The other sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, deepen this life of God, while Penance, or Reconciliation, gives it back to us if we have lost it by mortal sin, and Anointing prepares us for physical and spiritual healing or the grace of a happy death.

The Gift of Actual Grace

Another kind of grace gives us all of the day-to-day helps that we need in order to do good and avoid evil.  Actual graces come to us in the form of inspirations that enlighten our minds.  Some examples of actual graces are the desire to pray or to read the Bible, and the urge to help someone who is sick or who needs help at work.  Whenever we say "yes" to these desires and carry out the good works they suggest, we become better Christians and more pleasing to God.

Without the help of actual graces we could not avoid sin or do good works for others.  These graces help us to treat other people with respect and show us the way to live a good Christian life.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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