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Friday, July 4, 2014

On The Level with HandyGramps - Grace, Part Three

            "Now, Mr. Wishy-Washy," he said.
            “Oh! Start with the insults again, already!”
            “Thank you,” OS proceeded.  “Now that I have your complete attention again…  Do you remember Pelagius, and possevelleesse?”
            “Yeh, I remember,” I answered.
            “Do you remember how you defended Pelagius against mean ol’ Augustine?”
            “Come on, give me a break,” I pleaded.  “I had – still have to some degree – a problem with his approach to free will.  It didn’t seem much like free will to me.”
            “I know you still have a problem,” OS lilted sarcastically.  “That’s why I brought it up.  I’m going to explain why you’re having a problem with it.  Listen well, because your understanding of this whole class rides on this.
            “This course is ‘The Human and the Transcendent’ as I’m sure you recall.  All your life, you’ve looked at transcendent as something far away – ‘out there’ as it were.  Did you ever once consider that the great distance – if you’ll pardon the use of a feeble, physical descriptor here – just might be in the opposite direction?  There are two directions to infinity, and little, old, finite you is positioned dead-center between the two.  Remember what I said earlier about God being manifested inyou as a product of His creative will?  Think about that for a moment.  The transcendent, infinite God is within you, not somewhere ‘out there’!”
            OS had me, then – he really had me.
            “We cannot of ourselves surround the infinitude of God, but by His grace He fills us completely with Himself.  It is an inward reality in which H fills us to that limitless depth which is that other direction of infinity.  His presence, His grace is there, prevenient and all that.  By creating you, by making that desire to be with Him a part of you, He has already given you the grace you need to make the choice.  By creating you He is already helping you.  He has opened your eyes.  If you refuse to see, that’s your problem!  That’s your fault!”
            By this time I was as squirmy as OS was agitated  I was beginning to realize just what Jesus meant when He spoke of spitting up lukewarm water.  We’re either for Him or against Him.  There is no middle ground.  Our attitude – our response – has to be either/or, and in both cases it is a definitive attitude toward God.  I was at last really beginning to understand the necessity of grace.
            “Aha!” squealed OS, jumping up and down.  “Got you thinking in the right direction, didn’t I?”   (I had forgotten that OS, being a part of me, was privy to every thought I have.)  “You don’t have to understand it, just accept it.  But I think you are beginning to understand it, to boot.”
            For a second – only a second – I thought I saw a pleasing smile cross his lips.  Then, the stern lecture-look reappeared.
            “Moving along,” OS said, “I think you have a good grasp of justification by faith.  I recall years ago that you were embarrassed when you couldn’t explain why Catholics saw this differently from other Christians.  I think Rahner put it in good perspective for you when he differentiated between Luther’s posture of confidence in being saved and the Catholic position of hope.  That tied it all together for you without compromising Paul’s words.  Just remember that your faith is totally gratuitous, but it is a gift that has to be maintained by you.  So, work on it and keep working on it.
            “And now, my Friend, my outer self,” he said with twinkling eyes, “you made me chuckle the other day when you told one of your classmates that you liked what Rahner says.  You jokingly claimed that it’s easy to like someone who thinks like you do.  True as that may be, could you really have the audacity to say that you think like Karl Rahner thinks?  Give-me-a-break!  You haven’t even scratched the surface of what he said!”
            “I know that!” I yelled, defensively, “But stop and think.  How many unresolved questions did I have before I started reading Rahner – even the little we had in class?  He simply put justification in perspective for me.  He helped me accept, if not understand, how my free will is not compromised by God’s grace.  He helped me gain a deeper appreciation of what freedom really is.  He helped me to realize that I need to be who I am, not what I try to be under these thousands of masks I wear.  He showed me that I need to learn how to abandon myself to – or, better yet – in God.
            “And don’t forget what he said about prayer, that it is so important in our relationship with God.  How many times have I wondered why God was not answering my prayers?  How often did I rationalize that no answer was His answer?  Until Rahner pointed it out, never once did I ever think that maybe God wasn’t answering me because I wasn’t finished asking!  That He was just listening for me to finish!  Then, and only then, will He respond with the eternal response, when I – we – will be drawn into His life, losing our selves in His Self!”
            OS just stood there with a satisfied smirk on his face, and I suddenly realized that I had been speaking in exclamations.
            “Okay, Smarty,” he laughed, “so you’re at last off in the right direction.  But, TY248a has left you with a lot of work to do.  Don’t forget, behind you are a couple of millennia of praying and thinking by minds vastly greater than yours.  Never think that the task before you will ever be completed – not even close!  But, you had best pursue it.  By the way, what is it you’ve been writing down?  Taking notes on what I’ve been telling you?”
            OS grabbed the piece of paper.
            “Oh,” he said, “so you’ve written a poem.” He read it aloud.
Abandon thyself, O mortal creature,
            to the God from Whom thou art,
Consuming fire of Spirit within
            to fuse a bond which cannot part.
Enslave thyself for freedom’s sake
            to a love beyond our power;
And this, poor mortal, child of sin,
            will be thy greatest hour.
            With tears in his eyes, OS handed me back the poem.
            “There’s hope for you yet,” he said.  Then he disappeared inside me.
September 14, 2009