“To become holy, to become saints, we must of course try as hard as we can to do God’s will as it comes to us in a general way that is valid for everyone: through Scripture, the Commandments, and so on. It is also indispensable, as has just been said, to go further: to aspire to know not only what God demands of everyone in general, but also what he wants more specifically of us individually.”
— Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 19
AN EXCERPT FROM, In the School of the Holy Spirit
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God–not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Eph. 2:8-10 NRS)
From my earliest days as a Christian I can remember being told that our salvation comes from God’s grace and God’s grace alone. I believe this is a profound truth. However, I believe there is a purpose in the gift of grace to include the purpose of a changed life. I feel the way Ephesians 2:8-9 was interpreted it has been used more as magic than the beginning of the Christian life. Just as long as you say or pray a particular set of words, you are magically given a guarantee that you will eventually find you way to heaven.
In the Old Testament, the Scripture teaches that God has expectations of those who would be saints. We are told, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8 NRS) Several translation, like the NRSV end this passage with a question mark. Are we doing justice, loving kindness and humbly walking with God?
In the New Testament, we find these words, “Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:62 NRS) Is this just a toothless warning or an actual fact? The words of Jesus also tell us, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” (Lk. 18:17 NRS) Again, how are we supposed to take these words?
Our salvation is a process. It is not a one time event in the movement of history. It is an action of growth in commitment and obedience. It involves works that are enabled by our faithful response to the Holy Spirit. Scripture indicated time and time again, there are general works expected of us and there are individual expectations as well. Discerning the individual expectations awareness, alertness, and attentiveness to God’s word, times of prayer, and the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in a language of opportunity and love-embraced hope.
I believe we need to pay attention to teachers like Jacques Philippe rather than those who try to turn the grace of God’s purpose into the cheap grace of magic and deception. May our prayers be like the Psalmist, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path.” (Ps. 143:10 NRS)
Picture taken from Richard Rohr’s daily blog.