With Church’s new year, open lives to grace

| Father Donald DeGrood | November 23, 2016
Father Donald DeGrood

Father Donald DeGrood

Each year in the United States, we celebrate the beginning of a new calendar year on Jan. 1 with festivities of all sorts, hoping for a great new year. In our Catholic faith, we celebrate the beginning of a new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, also hoping for a great new year for spiritual reasons.

Liturgical years are called “years of grace” because the Church’s prayers and liturgies, taken as a whole, take Christians through Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection, as well as other key moments in salvation history. This year, the new liturgical year begins Nov. 27. In order for our new liturgical year to be spiritually great — a true “year of grace” — we need to dispose ourselves for God’s grace.

To help us better understand the nature of grace, the Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us these insights:

  • Grace is a participation in the life of God (CCC 1997).
  • The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it (CCC 1999).
  • Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love (CCC 2000).
  • Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces, which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification (CCC 2000).

If the year of grace 2017 is going to be a spiritually great one, we need to receive and respond to the generous gift of God’s own life within us through grace. How we begin our Advent season and correspond to God’s grace throughout the year will impact the outcome of our own year of grace.

It is not that we produce or even earn the grace of God, but rather we should be humble and gracious recipients of God’s blessing through grace. We do this by disposing ourself to God’s will and following the movements of grace in our daily lives.

St. Augustine is a great example of a person who finally came to his senses and opened his heart to God. His conversion story is a profound witness of God’s merciful love, a soul willing to be humbly converted, and a faithful mother, St. Monica, who prayed fervently for his conversion. In his famous book “Confessions,” he writes: “Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God; for without him, we can do nothing.”

As we prepare to enter the year of grace 2017 on the first Sunday of Advent, may our hearts be open to the amazing grace God has in store for us. May we also reflect back with gratitude for the many graces from the year of grace 2016, especially for God’s gracious gift of mercy.

El comienzo del año de la gracia en el 2017

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