Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Believing in grace

I am beginning to wonder if many Christians actually believe in the truly transforming power of grace. Every time I hear a Christian say, "We are all sinners", I ask myself what they think St. Paul meant. In today's first reading St. Paul provides at least a partial list of mortal sins, sins that would keep a person from entering the Kingdom of heaven, but then he writes,

That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

It is true that after baptism we continue to sin, but is "sinner" who I am? I occasionally play the piano but I would not call myself a pianist. I occasionally draw but I would not call myself an artist. I occasionally sin, but sinner is not my identity.

St. Paul is clear that, whatever we were before baptism, afterwards we are the adopted sons and daughters of God. We are part of the communion of saints. Yes, mortal sins can place us outside of that, but reconciliation brings us back.

In the Catholic Church we never repeat baptism, because it leaves an indelible character. It can never be undone. Grace is not simply another word for forgiveness. Grace is nothing less that the presence of God poured into us, a presence that can truly transform. It is why Saint Paul refers to the Church as "the saints."(1 Cor 6:1).

St. Paul reminds us all that we have been washed, sanctified, and justified. So why do so many of us walk around repeating, "I am a sinner." Instead shouldn't we wake up every morning and say "I am a saint." Our deepest beliefs about ourselves tend to shape our behavior. Perhaps if we actually started believing we are washed justified and sanctified, we would behave more like the saints we are called to be.