Grace still amazes me. As a man who still has to say more of my life has been lived without faith (the balance will shift if and when I turn 64…I’m a few years from that yet) grace is an amazing thing to me. Not only did grace give me the joyful and amazing life I now live as a priest, happier than I ever could have imagined being; seeing God’s work every day when I see the faith of people receiving Jesus at a Holy Mass our Lord gave me the privilege to be an instrument of Himself at, or being able to offer healing words to someone in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, or the deep peace & comfort people receive during a Holy Anointing in sickness or near death. Most especially I see grace at work in the hearts, minds and souls of the people I work with as a Vocation Director and without all the words to express it – I know it to be grace. Grace is everywhere and abundantly active in the world – but we have to want to see it.
What helps us see grace is mercy. We are coming to the end of the Year of Mercy and I hope that you (and I hope this for myself too) are changed forever. Jubilee Years are not meant to be chapters of the Book of Life closed. We need mercy more than ever, Jesus has implored us all to be merciful and when we have experienced mercy; had an interior conversion of our souls by receiving God’s mercy but also having been merciful to others and hopefully have experienced the mercy of others too – we are open to the experience of grace and the ability to see grace everywhere; even in the midst of this sometimes confusing world we live in.
Jesus encountered this blind beggar on the road who called out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner!” He humbled himself to our Lord, but appealed to both His Divinity (his ability to forgive him & heal him) and His humanity (Son of David, I’m your brother!). Of course there are many places in our life that mercy, love and grace can take place but one of my own favorites is the confessional. I make this regular practice myself because I know it’s where I receive mercy, love and forgiveness but it helps me to offer it too. And I have to confess “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me a sinner.” Knowing He will gives my heart reason to rejoice. I had the privilege once to ask a great priest confessor of mine what gave him the ability to be a good confessor; he replied “the amount of time I’ve spent on the other side of this box”. I try to own his words. Every now and again, hopefully more often than not and sometimes without even knowing it, you say the right thing – and praise God, it’s Him and His grace through you that helps. I can and do read books to help me to be a better confessor, but I can admit that the time I spend as a penitent helps me to be a better confessor because I can relate to any penitent knowing that everyone who presents themselves in the Sacrament of Confession is humbled to do so and sincerely desires an encounter with the Lord. I never want to stand in the way or be an obstacle to that.
Grace and goodness is everywhere in the world. At times it may be hard to see it. Let us all consider the ways we can open our hearts and minds to see the very best the world has to offer, see what is being redeemed and redeemable and be instruments of grace for that. There are many ways, but one of the best ways I know is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. May God bless you