13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 28th 2015.
Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24; 2Cor 8:7,9, 13-15; Mk 5:21-43
Responding to divine grace
I recently read the conversion story of Greg, who considered himself the “most decorated male adult film star of all time.” In his over 23 years of acting in these degrading movies, he had been inducted in the Hall of Fame in the porn industry and had featured in over a thousand movies. He recounted how he spent all his fortune buying drugs to numb the deep pains of his lifestyle and how he just could not enter into a healthy relationship with women mainly because he had become numb and dead to real love. One day in 2011, after close to two decades of struggling with drugs and several suicide attempts arising from his lifestyle and career, he found himself sobbing in repentance and regret in his car after shooting what would be his last movie. He never went back to this lifestyle after that particular day. He said of that day, “I changed my life… I began my life.”
What caused him to make such a dramatic life change in a single unplanned moment after over 23 years of literally living in hell and producing movies that have ruined countless lives and destroyed numerous families and marriages? The money was there, the fame was growing, the success was building up and he left all that at a single moment. Only one thing could make him make such a drastic and complete change in a single moment – the grace of God. This was his moment of grace, the moment when God’s grace enlightened his mind and move his will to realize that this was not a way to authentic fulfillment and happiness for him and for others. He left the fame and wealth he had gained all these years because he was responding to the prompting of God’s grace.
Why did they hemorrhaging woman in today’s Gospel passage dump all the doctors who had left her broke financially and only worse health wise after 12 years? What moved her to approach the Jesus, an itinerant preacher from Galilee instead? It was nothing but divine grace from what she heard that moved her: “She heard about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak.” She too was responding to divine grace with conviction as she said to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” It is divine grace and not human wisdom that moved her to touch Jesus’ garment with faith as Jesus attested after she narrated the whole story to Him, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”
Moved by divine grace also, Jairus went to Jesus to beg Him to save the life of his dying daughter. With the news of her death, Jesus invites him to persevere in responding to that movement of grace in these words, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” Without the grace of God moving us, we cannot perform any supernatural act or make any act of faith, hope or love. Jesus affirmed the necessity of diving grace in seeking him in these words, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”(Jn 6:65)
What does this divine grace do in our lives? It is a divine assistance that has three functions in the life of people like us who do not deserve any of God’s favor. First, the grace of God moves us away from all that is sinful and against the will of God. Secondly, it moves us towards God to receive His mercy, healing and forgiveness, the new life of sanctifying grace and the infused virtues of faith, hope and love for God and for others. Lastly, this grace preserves us in that new life so that we do not lose the gift of this new life but grow in it.
What do we get from responding to this prompting of grace? We experience miracles of grace in our lives, we see God doing great things in our lives, and we share deeply in His own life and happiness. Like converted Greg, Jarius, and the hemorrhaging woman of the Gospel, who all responded to the promptings of grace, we too will experience miracles of grace. We do not obtain miracles by following the mere dictates of human wisdom but by generously following the prompting of grace.
In the First Reading, the author of the book of Wisdom tells us that “God fashioned all things that they might have being…For God formed man to be imperishable.” God wills and moves all things that all might have a share in His immortal life, that life which nothing can deprive us of; but He will not force us to share in His own immortal life. He will continue to move us, to inspire us, and to invite us by the aid of His numerous graces. We must freely cooperate with this movements of grace.
St. Paul appeals to the generosity of the Corinthians towards the Church in Jerusalem by reminding them of the gracious act of Jesus Christ who “though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” Without ceasing to be true God, Jesus took on the poverty of human nature so that we become rich by His own poverty. Rich in what? Money, wealth, fame, pleasure? No, rich in the life of grace. Because Jesus Christ emptied Himself for our sake on the Cross, we are rich in grace and we will never lack those moments of grace, those instances when divine assistance moves us away from the path of death and futility to seek, possess, and grow in the divine gifts and the happiness and life that they bring.
If we are struggling to respond to promptings of divine grace in our lives, or we are reluctant to respond because we are afraid of what it may cost us, let us turn with confidence to Mary, the Mother of God. She is the one who is truly “Full of grace” and also completely open to the promptings and movements of divine grace in her life. We see this response to grace in her journey of haste to visit her relative Elizabeth shortly after she conceived the Author of grace in her womb. What did she gain from this generous response to grace? She witnessed a miracle of grace as Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb. Can we think of a more profound hymn of praise than Mary’s Magnificat at the home of Elizabeth?
Like a loving mother, Mary always intercedes for us with her Son Jesus in all our needs as she did for the wedding guests at the wedding feast of Cana, “They have no wine.” But she does something more – she beckons on us to heed the voice of grace: “Do whatever He tells you.” If we turn to her today and open our hearts to her completely with a willingness and readiness to follow the prompting of grace in this life and not our passions, egos, or worldly standards, we will hear this exhortation over and over again and, like the wedding guests at Cana, we too will see miracles as we respond to the promptings of grace.
No matter how many years we have struggled in this life with sin or with issues and hardships in life, there will always be new moments of grace before us, divine invitations to victory over the forces of darkness and pain. Jesus Christ has merited these innumerable moments of grace for us. Besides, we have an insistent but loving Mother Mary to constantly invite us to respond to grace with generosity just like she did.
Because of Jesus Christ, who became poor that we become rich, we are indeed rich in grace today. We will never lack moments of grace. This same Jesus Christ pours His sanctifying grace into our hearts today in this Holy Communion. He desires that we have life and have it abundantly. He will never force us or act against our will. But He will never cease to move our hearts, minds, and wills with His grace.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if after having been made rich in grace by the merits of Christ, we still do not see miracles of grace in our daily lives, if we are not growing in the happiness that comes from this life of God in us, then we must stop and ask ourselves this simple question, “How ready and willing am I to heed and to respond to the promptings of divine grace?”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!