What is grace, you might well ask, especially in this Year of Grace. But actually grace is not about something; it is not like a divine drug that is injected into us or a heavenly blood transfusion. Rather it is about Someone. That Someone is the living loving God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Grace is God dwelling in us, and we, in the process, growing ever more God-like in our understanding, in our love and compassion for each other and for the world. For, as St Athanasius, the great defender of our faith in Jesus as Lord and God, reminded us "He was made man that we might be made God."

The Second Letter of Peter tells us that God wishes that we become "partakers of the divine nature." (1 Pet 1:4). We, each and every one of us, are made to enter into and share in God's being and life. We can see this dynamic especially clearly at work in the lives of the saints. Teaching us with their very lives, the saints demonstrate for all to see the power of God and the power of grace in lives lived in faith, hope and love. In them, we see writ large the beatitudes of which Jesus spoke and which are the marks of grace: poor in spirit, meek, merciful, pure of heart, peace-makers, hungering and thirsting for justice.

Grace makes a real difference to our lives. Slowly but surely, like the seed in the ground that germinates and takes root, we see each other and the world differently. Our understanding changes and our capacity for loving others and for working for justice grows and deepens. Our knowing and loving actually becomes more and more conformed to God's knowing and loving. Grace is manifest in the loves, the longings, the hopes, and the strivings for truth and goodness, as well as in the emptiness and the loneliness which accompany a life that is lived in self-giving love and commitment to love of neighbour.

We, each and everyone of us, are made for grace. The presence of grace in us manifests itself in graced actions in our daily lives, in love of God and love of neighbour. Love is its unmistakable mark. "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us" (1 Jn 4:7).

The amazing thing about grace is that the giver is the gift! God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the giver AND the gift. For in grace, God gives God's very self to us, and comes to dwell in us. As we respond in faith, hope and love, and open ourselves to this great gift, which is freely offered to us and offered in abundance, God dwells ever more deeply in us and we enter ever more deeply into God's life of love. We, each and every one of us, are made for this gift of grace.

Grace translates the Latin "gratia" and the Greek "charis" of the Scriptures. It occurs most frequently in the letters of St Paul, where it features in the greeting at the beginning and in the farewell at the conclusion of almost every one of his letters. There, in the Scriptures, grace is the gift of God. It is a new life and a new way of being. The word, grace, expresses, as much as one word can, the utterly unstinting generosity of God's dealings with us.

Anne Hunt

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