Sunday, March 19, 2017

Grace as necessary gift

We who are alive in the 21st century should have an even deeper appreciation of today's gospel than the original heater. After all, we understand at a much deeper level the biological importance of water and its importance not only to human life but to all life. Without water there is no life. I still find it hard to grasp that my body is more than 60% water. Without food we can survive around 3 weeks. Without water we would be lucky to survive one.

So it is with God's grace. Our souls need grace the way our bodies need water — even more so perhaps. After all, the soul cannot die. The condition it can end up in is worse than death. We call it hell.

What Jesus is offering the woman at the well is nothing less than a share in his divine life. We call that grace. Jesus is offering her the grace that leads to eternal life. This grace comes to us above all in the sacraments.

Here we American Catholics need to be very careful. With an over abundance of zeal we can turn the sacraments into the equivalent of merit badges, something to be earned, something to be given to only the pure of heart.

The catechism says that,"Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." It is not that we hear the call, respond to it, and then are worthy to receive grace. The grace is what enables us to respond in the first place. The preface for today's mass reminds us,

For when he asked the Samaritan woman for water to drink,
he had already created the gift of faith within her
and so ardently did he thirst for her faith,
that he kindled in her the fire of divine love.

It wa God's grace at work in her that enabled her to respond. It is true that we must be "rightly disposed" to receive sacraments, but that proper disposition cannot be reduced to a checklist. It is something to be discerned by those entrusted with the care of souls. After all, there is no more precious gift that one can receive than the grace of God. That is why the church is so careful about how sacraments are celebrated and how we prepare to receive them. But in our zeal we must never forget that the free and unmerited quality of grace. "Lord I am not worthy...."

Grace — water for the soul. In this Lenten season let us drink fully and often, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. And if there are obstacles in our lives, choices that we have made that are irreconcilable with the gospel. There is no better time to al least begin to move those obstacles so that we can get to the well. Jesus can prepare us in the same way he prepared the woman at the well. When Jesus named her grave sin, she did argue. Tradition tells us that she went back and changed her life and became a saint in the early Church. Now is the time for us to change, to turn away from sin, to turn toward the well and receive the water of eternal life.