Monday, March 16, 2009

Ephesians 1:1e (continuation)

“ . . . grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who really understands God’s grace? How can the finite understand the infinite, the pot the potter, or dust the One who created it? Grace, charis, is simply (simply?) God’s favor toward us – favor granted us not because of anything we’ve done -- after all, we were dead in our trespasses and sins and had to be made alive only by the move of the Holy Spirit in our life. No, God grants His grace toward us because of how wonderful He is, not how wonderful we are.

And yet, as often as I meditate on God’s undeserved favor, I still have difficulty understanding -– why did He do what He did for someone like me? Why did He stoop to even look at me while I so often turned from Him – willfully turned – because I wanted to do what I wanted to do? Why did God demonstrate His love for me by sending His son to die in my place?

Again, the answer is grace.

Speaking of grace, I like to think of St. Therese of Lisieux’s comment: "Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love — difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness — Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events — to the heart that loves, all is well."

Can you imagine knowing God so well – trusting God so well, loving God so much – to be completely at rest with life’s events that befall, regardless of their depth of heartache?

I wonder if St. Therese knew something about God that I don’t yet know.

St. Peter wrote: “May grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power” (my emphasis).

Maybe therein lies an answer.

How can I – how can we – know God’s grace? I think the answer is simple: Knowledge of God. And how does one know God? I think that one is also easy: knowledge of the scriptures.

St. Jerome wrote, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” and so teaches the Church, for example, here, here and here.

Surely that is why St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Therese and others throughout our history could face even martyrdom with praise of God on their lips. They knew God’s grace in such as way as comes only from really knowing God -- not just knowing about Him.

Many years ago I discovered if I read two chapters of the Old Testament and two chapters of the New every day, I would read through the New Testament three times every year, and the Old Testament every thirteen months. And while I am in no way close to Sainthood, I understand more of God’s grace today than I did even five years ago.

Why not establish your own daily pattern of reading God's word?

Questions for Reflection:

1. What does St. Peter's comment in 1 Peter 2 mean to you? What about Psalm 119:9-11, 97, 116?
2. We will look at this chapter later in our study, but how does this passage in Ephesians 6 apply to the members of Christ's Body?

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