Did you recognize the last paragraph of this morning's reading? It is the passage that we proclaim as the second reading at the Midnight Mass for Christmas. After listing more characteristics identifying the truly Christian man and woman, St. Paul says: “Grace appears in Jesus.”
The word "grace" or "gratia" means "freely given." Gracious, graciousness, gratuitous, gratuity – they all speak to the fact that God's love for us is freely given and never earned. We little human beings do not have the resources to initiate or maintain a relationship with God. God takes the initiative. God is in charge. My salvation is not within my own control. All I can do is be "grateful" in return.
So much of our human life is based upon merit. Pay checks, honors, awards, favors – they are all earned. Because this is an integral part of human life, we sometimes make the mistake of believing that our life with God is the same. We look at life in this manner so naturally that even the language of our prayers in the Roman missal constantly speak of merit and making us worthy of God’s love. No matter how hard we try, we find it difficult to break out of this mindset. It has become so much a part of who we are that we even think of gratuities given to waiters or barbers or cab drivers as expectations rather than being freely given.
God’s love is freely given. Nothing more need be said.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator