Some time ago I had the joy of celebrating the Wedding Mass of a couple that has been through really rough seas in their engagement journey. No wonder the Holy Spirit, during their Wedding Mass homily, showed me to dub them as “the graceful couple”!
Yes! This couple has been graced by God in many ways. But what is precisely grace? What does it mean? In the original Greek the word for grace is χάρις, which is translitered as cháris. This feminine word has some four meanings. It means that which produces joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness. Such as thegrace of speech, as we encounter in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him” (Ecclesiastes 10:12).
Then, the word χάρις, in its broader sense, is that good-will, loving-kindness, and favor. The obvious biblical text that comes to mind is that of Luke 2 when it says: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). In Luke 1 the word χάρις is employed as the kindness of a master toward his servants, and thus particularly of God toward us, humans. “And the angel said to her [Mary], ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:30). Let us not forget that we, as humans, do not deserve God’s favor! Romans 11 tells us: “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace” (Luke 11:6).
Adding to this, the word χάρις is also employed when talking about the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues. A powerful reminder of this idea is, undoubtedly, 2 Corinthians when it says: “For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). For this very reason the Bible wisely insists that one is to be subject to the power of grace, notably in believing. In Acts 18 we find: “When he [Apollos]arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:27). Grace is there to assist those who promote the Christian faith. As was the case with Barnabas who, having witnessed the widespread of the faith from Jerusalem to Antioch, “saw the grace of God” (Acts 11:23). Finally, the χάρις (or favor) of Christ assists and strengthens his followers and ministers to bear their troubles. In 2 Corinthians Christ himself says to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Thirdly, the word χάρις designates the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace. In theological terms we refer to it as ‘status gratiae’. TheLetter to the Romans tells us: “Through him [our Lord Jesus Christ]we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing theglory of God” (Romans 5:2). That is why the salvation offered to Christians is, itself, called χάρις, i.e., a gift of divine grace. 1 Peter encourages us with the following words: “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation …Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:10.13).
Lastly, χάρις stands for thanksgiving. In the Letter to the Romans Paul says of the aforementioned: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17).
I would like to sum up this iter on grace by quoting what Pope Francis tweeted on 9 September 2013: “We ought never to lose hope. God overwhelms us with his grace, if we keep asking”. In, through and with Jesus Christ, God has made us worthy recipients of his saving grace! What a grace!