[ WordBytes on Spiritual Growth ]
HAIL MARY, FULL OF GRACE, THE LORD IS WITH YOU.
BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN,
AND BLESSED IS THE FRUIT OF YOUR WOMB, JESUS.
HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD,
PRAY FOR US SINNERS NOW
AND AT THE HOUR OF OUR DEATH.
What does GRACE mean?
How full of grace are you?
Every December 8, we celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception, i.e., the fact that the mother of our Lord Jesus was conceived in her mother’s womb free from the stain of original sin, so that she would be full of grace and, 14 or 15 years later, God, who is totally pure and holy, could become a child in her womb.
Because of God’s decision to create a daughter who did not carry the guilt of Eve, Mary was born sinless. Because of her own daily decisions, she remained sinless.
As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God started a plan to undo the damage, a plan that included Mary:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15 NIV).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church builds on this:
The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the “New Adam” who, because he “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”, makes amends super-abundantly for the disobedience, of Adam. (Cf. 1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45; Phil 2:8; Rom. 5:19-20.) Furthermore many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the “Proto-evangelium” as Mary, the mother of Christ, the “new Eve”. Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life (Catechism para. 411).
GRACE is all the gifts of God, both natural and supernatural, which He provides to us because of His mercy. Note: It’s available to us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, not because we’ve earned it! We haven’t earned it!
Mary received her grace because of what Jesus was going to do on the cross.
To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.” The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace (Catechism para. 490).
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, (Luke 1:28) was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin” (Catechism para. 491).
How did Mary stay free from sin?
By her complete adherence to the Father’s will, to his Son’s redemptive work, and to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is the Church’s model of faith and charity. Thus she is a “preeminent and . . . wholly unique member of the Church”; indeed, she is the “exemplary realization” of the Church (Catechism para. 967).
The Bible shows us that grace is God’s ability to help us resist the devil.
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach (Revelation 12:13-14 NIV, italics mine).
Someday we’ll all be full of grace; Mary was the first to receive this gift, and she is a model of what God has in mind for all of us.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son (Rev. 21:3-4, 6-7 NIV).
What keeps us from experiencing more grace now? Our sins!
- What situation in your life needs more of God’s grace?
- How does your sinfulness make the problem worse or at least let it continue?
Living in the state of grace means having freedom from sin.
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8 NIV). We have many worthless idols: everything and everyone we hold dear to us more than we rely on God. Do you seek comfort or the fulfillment of your needs from a friend or spouse or parent before seeking it from God? Do you run to the medicine cabinet or the doctor before praying to God for healing? Do you spend your money on a newer, fancier car, or a newer, fancier computer, or a newer, fancier anything instead of tithing (that’s 10% of your income!) to the church and the needy? All these idols rob you of the grace God is desiring to give you!
Like it did for Mary, God’s grace can protect us from sin.
When we realize we have sinned, one reason why it is better to go to a priest for the Sacrament of Reconciliation than to go directly to God alone in prayer is because it is a sacrament, and sacraments are doors that open us to grace. Sacraments are the in-pouring of God’s grace. This grace gives us supernatural help to avoid the same sin in the future. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:14 NIV).
When we sin, God’s mercy restores us to grace: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10 NIV).
When we sin, God’s mercy restores us to grace because, like Mary, we, too are “highly favored ones.” Just as God’s grace helped Mary make daily decisions to resist sin, so too can God’s grace help us become holier people: As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2 NIV).
Remember, God’s grace is given to us freely because of His great love for us, not because we’ve earned it:
Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life ~ not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:8-10 NIV).
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:5-6 NIV).
God’s grace teaches us right from wrong and empowers us to say “NO!” to temptation:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope ~ the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13 NIV).
God is very gracious. In His generous love for us, He offers us everything we need to resist sin. Having grace means receiving all the gifts of God that we need: From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:16-18).
Each gift we have is a grace! Mary was full of grace and that means she was full of God’s gifts.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully (Rom. 12:6-8 NIV).
These graces (or gifts) are manifested by God’s power:
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people (Acts 6:8 NIV).
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9:8 NIV).
Pray the Glorious Mysteries of Rosary to open yourself more fully to God’s graces and to become better distributors of His graciousness. In your heart, name a situation in your life where you need more grace. Go meditatively to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, and to our Blessed Mother in the Glorious Mysteries, in the resurrection of Jesus, in His ascension into heaven, in the descent of the Holy Spirit, in the assumption of Mary into heaven, and in Mary’s crowning as our queen, and with each Mystery ask for the grace it provides.
© 1999 by Terry A. Modica
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What Does It Mean to be Full of Grace?
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