Grace and mercy

Pinterest is defined by Wikipedia as, “A web and mobile application company that operates a software system designed to discover information on the World Wide Web, mainly using images and on a shorter scale, GIFs and videos.”

In everyday terms, it’s the black hole that you slide into when you are trying to get work done and then you realize two hours have gone by and your work is not done but you have now decorated your future mansion. While hanging around my black hole of procrastination I came on upon a quote that I thought was perfect for the season of Lent (Side note: you can create a wonderful Pinterest board about Lent). The quote, by the popular author Unknown, read, “Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve and mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we do deserve.”

We often hear about grace and mercy during Lent and while they do go together very well, they are different aspects of God’s love for us. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” states that grace is “the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to His call to become children of God.” Grace is what is given to us in order to grow in relationship with God and in holiness. We are told that the Sacraments are an instrument of God’s grace. Most of us as babies are brought to the Church to be baptized and we receive God’s grace. We did not do anything to deserve these gifts. We were simply born to parents who chose to have us baptized. 

The Church says that we have Sanctifying grace and actual grace. Sanctifying grace is the gift that perfects the soul and allows us to live with God. We first receive this grace at Baptism and we continue to receive it through the Sacraments and prayer. Actual grace however is that grace that nudges us to take action in our lives. Actual grace is like the Spiritual kick in the pants that we need to follow God and do what He is calling us to. Actual grace is what we use to build a relationship with God where Sanctifying grace is the grace we use to stay in that relationship with Him. They are gifts that God gives to us even if we do not deserve it so that we can continue to be His children.

Mercy is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” God is omnipotent. He has the power to punish us for when we turn our backs on Him and He would be absolutely justified. He gave us this life and in return He asks that we use it to love Him. However, when we fall short of this, He chooses to show us compassion and forgiveness rather than turn His back on us. 

During the season of Lent we get to focus on grace and mercy. The season, through its three pillars, calls us to grow in grace. Lent calls us to pray more, fast from what we do not need and give to those around us. The more time we pray, the more grace fills our life. If we continue with the analogy of a relationship, prayer is creating time to spend more time with God. The more time we spend with Him, the more we become like Him. 

When we fast, we rid ourselves of the things that we do not need that are keeping us from God. Fasting allows more time for prayer. It allows us to connect back to Him when we feel like we are not strong enough to continue our fast. This time spent with God fosters in us a desire to give to those around us. When we give what we have, grace continues to move us to want to be who God is calling us to be. 

Mercy, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is offered to us in a visible and amazing way. To hear those words, “you are forgiven” reminds us that we are His beloved children, whom He loves beyond measure. 

I pray that during this season of Lent we take advantage of every opportunity to receive God’s mercy and grace. Practice all three pillars of Lent, go to Reconciliation, and spend time in Adoration. In their song “Inside Out,” Hillsong United sings, “A thousand times I’ve failed still Your mercy remains. And should I stumble again I’m caught in Your grace.” There is no end to God’s mercy and grace, only our desire to pursue it or to ignore it. The choice is ours!

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.org.


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