The photographs are trickling in to my inbox, the Facebook page, and via the mail. You know the ones: the happy faces of tender beauties in white veils, the dandy gents in ties and jackets, the Confirmandi in Sunday best, the tiny babies in satin and lacy gowns, and the new look of freshly starched collars or religious habits coming into view. I just love looking at all those smiles. They inspire me.
'Tis the season for the fullness of Easter joys found in the sacraments that tend to fill up the weekends in May and June. From the Baptisms and First Communions, to the Confirmations, Ordinations, and Marriages, it's all enough to get us choked up, or pushing back wistful tears.
We delight in wiggly babes being sprinkled, doused, or immersed, just as much as we try to take in the joy of someone receiving their Lord in Holy Communion for the first time. We stand in quiet awe witnessing the professions of faith, the anointings, and the taking of vows to love, honor, and serve God, and one another. Even the most cynical can momentarily suspend reservations for the sake of the loved one who invited them to come to church for the celebration—reminding us that hope is something we all can intuit, even if in tiny glimpses.
Sacraments make up the treasured memories of life, the good times that sing out the Good News. They are reminders of the mystery of grace—the gift of God's Love made visible; the intangible Presence becoming known.
The Something More we secretly hope for and yearn for is Right Here.
To me, these are most hopeful signs of a new springtime: the outpouring of grace is flowing somewhere right now from the Seven Sacraments even as we behold this moment.
Grace is the spiritual superglue that binds us to Jesus Christ—the stuff of heaven that touches and transforms our mere existence into living well, regardless of our circumstances. I often try to picture it as God's long arm reaching down to earth to hold us and buoy us along until he can draw us into an eternal embrace face to face.
Beyond my enthusiastic ramblings, there are real truths to be told about grace.
Grace is the free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become his adopted children. As sanctifying grace, God shares his divine life and friendship with us in a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that enables the soul to live with God, to act by his love. As actual grace, God give us the help to conform our lives to his will. Sacramental grace and special graces (charisms, the grace of one's state of life) are gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our Christian vocation. (Definition from the glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
These sacramental celebrations equip and encourage us to become who we really are: children of God. Or, as St. Peter once wrote, "partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life" (2 Pet. 1:3-4). The graces given in baptism change us and give a new identity, and successive sacraments later in life confirm and strengthen it. All these sacraments echo again and again: we are children of God. We are loved!
The One who loves us both now and eternally wants us to be lavished by His Love so we can lavish it on one another. I think some of the emotional responses that we have regarding these happy occasions confirm that we somehow intuit this lavishing love, but we cannot fully fathom its depths. When we come face to face with this supernatural encounter, this embrace of God, we just weep, or stand there awed, somewhat struck, silently watching.
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.
This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God's gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1997-1998)
Grace "introduces us to the intimacy" of the Trinity. Did you catch that?
The Trinity is all about relationships—that of the Father, Son, and Spirit—and by grace we are drawn into those relationships.
God is revealing and giving himself to us. Do we dare imagine that? Do we believe that the Trinity would open itself to us in such a manner? Jesus Christ did. This is why Jesus came, died, and rose . . . to save us from not being drawn into this new life. All grace comes through him, with him, and in him.