Whenever I ask someone “What is Grace?” I have to be prepared to hear some varying answers. I also need to be ready to give a clear and understandable explanation myself.
Simply stated, Grace is God’s life within us. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church. (#1997)
Because of original sin, we are not naturally born into God’s Grace. We need to be baptized for this to happen. Therefore, Christian parents should be ready to baptize their children as soon as possible. Church (canon) law states the following:
Parents are obliged to take care that infants are baptized in the first few weeks; as soon as possible after the birth or even before it, they are to go to the pastor to request the sacrament for their child and to be prepared properly for it. (Can. 867 §1)
To remain in the state of God’s Grace, a person should not be conscious of having committed any serious (mortal) sin. All serious (mortal) sin is ordinarily forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (confession), not merely by recourse to an act of contrition or something similar. This is not to say that God cannot work in other ways, at His discretion and according to His will. However, a Catholic Christian who is conscious of having committed a serious sin should ordinarily avail himself or herself of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. This sacrament restores us—reconciles us—to God’s Grace.
To me, it is essential to strive to remain constantly in God’s Grace. There should never be a time when I want to be alienated or disconnected from the Source of all life, love, goodness, truth and beauty. I should endeavor to eliminate all serious sin out of my life—realizing that I need the gift of God (His favor or grace) to do that. In other words, we are totally dependent on God and His goodness to us for all we have, and we need to cooperate with Him constantly.
With all of the above in mind, I believe too many people in our culture sometimes think that only something as extreme as murder is a serious sin. Believe me, there are many other grave sins out there! Serious sin meets the traditional criteria of sufficient reflection (I thought about it and know it is wrong), grave matter (the subject matter is objectively serious) and full consent of the will (I freely choose to do the act even though I know it is seriously wrong). Actions including theft, calumny, detraction, adultery, fornication, worship of a false god, perjury, euthanasia, abortion, blasphemy and various other sins can ordinarily be considered objectively grave. If the person knowingly and willing carries them out, they can certainly fall into the category of mortal sin. Moreover, the seven deadly sins (pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth) can be examined as a root cause of all grave sin. Then, to add some more food for thought, there are the various sins of omission that Jesus mentions in the Gospel passage of the Final Judgment (See Mt. 25: 31-46)
Our striving to remain in God’s Grace and to avoid all sin—but most especially serious sin—can be difficult, but remains always possible thanks to God’s unconditional love for us!
Fr. Ed Namiotka