How hard it is to believe in God’s radical grace and yet how desperately we hope and pray for it!
In his masterful book on grace, Piet Fransen (The New Life of Grace) suggests that we can test how well we understand grace by gauging our reaction to this gospel story! Here is another that he suggests:
There is a person, who during their whole life is entirely careless about God and morality. They are selfish, ignore the commandments, ignore all the even basic moral principles of society let alone any religious tradition. Near the end of their life, they have a religious encounter with God, they are baptized, reconciled and ultimately united with God in eternal life.
What is our spontaneous reaction to this story or the Gospel story?
Is our first reaction:
Oh isn’t it wonderful that the person who died found God before they did and now are enjoying the joy of heaven.
Or was our reaction:
Lucky dog. He got to have all the fun, pleasure, and excitement in life, and still gets to enjoy heaven!
Fr. Ron Rolheiser suggests, that if we felt the latter emotion, even for a moment, we are not fully grasping the concept of grace. Rather, we, like the older brother of the story of the Prodigal Son, are still seeing life away from God’s embrace as fuller than life inside God’s embrace and are still doing the right things mostly out of duty, obligation, or perceived moral law, and secretly envying those who do not.
Please do not judge ourselves….we need to be gentle with ourselves because such thoughts are simply an occupational hazard for good, faithful persons. It’s a part of the human condition.
We are not immune to the reality of being human. We are not immune from the experiences, or emotions of being human either. Our reaction simply indicates to us, that we are still far from living into and being the Saints that we are.
In that, in that struggle, we can stand in gratitude for that fact that God’s grace is as radical and inclusive as it is!
How hard it is to believe in God’s radical grace, and yet how desperately we hope and pray for it!