Monday, February 29, 2016

Grace For the Good Kids

I was reading a reflection on St Augustine's confessions. It is quite a compelling story the way he tells it. The amazing mercy of God stood out because St Augustine was such a big sinner. Then he made one more note. That was that even those of us who are fairly well-behaved are indebted to the grace of God because it was only by grace we avoided sin. I think he quoted St Therese of Lisieux who thanked God for protecting her from sins before she committed them. It reminded me of a story of John Knox watching the execution of a serious criminal and reacting with, "There but for the grace of God go I."

It did strike me because it is so easy to forget that. It is so easy to look at some people making bad choices and you making good choices and think God must be so pleased with me. The trouble is a good understanding of God's grace is needed not just for initial conversion but for any stage in the spiritual life. The temptation to make it all about your effort is always there. Even in prayer, prayer is supposed to be about acknowledging out dependence on God yet even that can become self-centred when you start to think of how many prayers you have said. 

This week's gospel from Luke 13:1-9 contains some of that. People are complaining about suffering as we are prone to do. Jesus responded by pointing out how much we all deserve to suffer and how we should be amazed not that some dies but that any live. He then goes on to indicate that for many the reason they have not been destroyed yet it not because they are doing great but because God is giving them more time to repent. Even so, that time is finite and destruction will come. 

Jesus follows this with the parable of the fig tree. It uses the measure of fruitfulness. The fig tree looks fine and healthy but does not produce fruit. The first thought is to destroy it. Then the servant pleads for one more year. He will give it every possible chance to produce and if it does not do so it will be removed. 

It makes me wonder how many people are in church every Sunday and receiving many graces from God but not producing any fruit. We think they are living Christianity in a boring way but at least these people probably won't commit any mortal sin they don't confess so they will probably end up in heaven. Yet Jesus does not seem think that way. He knows we all need God's grace to remain free of mortal sin. If we remain fruitless that grace can be taken away. It is like the luke warm believer that get spewed out of God's mouth.
We need to remember that producing figs is not something difficult for a fig tree. It will do it if there isn't anything preventing it from happening. So we need to honestly ask why we don't produce fruit? Is it because we really don't believe God is worth the time and effort? Is it because we don't want to be seen as too religious? Is it because we don't think it will lead to great joy?  What ever it is we need to deal with it. 

Jesus talks about digging around the tree and putting manure on it. Are you willing to cooperate with that grace? Are you going to let Jesus dig around you and put manure on you? OK it won't really be manure but it will mean embracing some things many will refer to as BS. Is that OK? 

We are not expected to do great things but we are expected to let God make us into the awesome person He created us to be. When we start working with God instead of against Him then producing fruit will be as natural for us as producing figs is for a fig tree. 

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