The following is a reflection that Ursuline President Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, gave at the missioning of Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, coworkers and Associates on Friday, July 28, 2023:
When I was teaching high school, there was a section in the textbook on grace describing sanctifying, actual and sacramental grace. The students were trying to make some applications of grace to their own lives. So, when it was test time, I had a question about grace and what it meant to them. A student wrote, “There is only one grace, and it is amazing grace.”
Yes, grace is amazing—God clothing and bathing us in fidelity and unconditional love to strengthen us, console us, move us to what we need at the time or an inspiration of where we need to go or what we need to discover, a nudge if you will.
Grace is the deep abiding presence, a moment in the mystery of God’s love. Richard Rohr describes grace as a natural loving flow of God when we allow it, not resist it and sometimes when we are at the bottom, is where we find grace. He said grace is like water—it pools at the lowest level. Grace moves in when we are most vulnerable.
Proverbs reflects grace as trust in God with all your heart. In Proverbs there is reference of making clothes—the focus is spiritual clothing; clothed with generosity and strength, strong to withstand adversity, asking for deliverance from fear of the future, to go forward to praise God with good works and gratitude for what God has bestowed on us.
In Galatians, Paul is struggling with the tensions of relationships with the Jewish and Gentile Christians. Grace is about relationships. Christ is at the heart of human relationship with all of God’s people, no matter who we are, what color of skin, lifestyle, culture, race or religion, in our home, city, streets, or at the border.
Our relationship with others ought to be a glimpse of God’s relationship with us, a tangible moment of grace. By God’s love and graciousness, reflected in relationship with God and each other, we have the ability and freedom to transcend pain or oppression in our lives, society and culture.
At the Transfiguration, love and grace enfolded Jesus, a dramatic demonstration of God’s goodness that transforms one in strength for what lies ahead. ““This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Mt: 17:5 Listen, we are God’s beloved, listen, you are God’s beloved.
God’s grace is expressed in love; grace enfolds us to go forth and not be afraid, not to stay in the experience as the disciples wanted to, but to go forth, clothed in grace, strengthened in faith for the challenges we must encounter. Do not shy away from grace, be open and do not resist. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, writes in his book, Seeing with the Heart, “Grace is about God’s surprises, not one’s expectations or plans. If we persist on the journey, we might discover something remarkable—this God whom we seek, and question is actually seeking us more.”
Now most of us will not have a transfiguration experience as Jesus did. Joan Chittister, OSB, said, “I begin to understand that grace or holiness is made of the dailyness of living life, as it comes to me, not as I insist. Find what stirs your heart and make room for it.”
One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 42: “As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” For me, it seems like every time my heart is heavy, or I have great concern and need a reminder of God, I see a deer. It just happened a few weeks ago as I was going through the park, I saw eight deer. I think I needed a strong dose of God’s grace, a reminder that grace is in and comes to us in the dailyness, the stuff of living life.
Martha Buser, OSU, always says, “Don’t get ahead of grace.” Grace is a gift, be open to it, accept and respond to the gift and go forth.
So, on this missioning day, allow yourself to be clothed in God’s grace and love, strengthened for the call to respond, not to be afraid, and as you go forth in the dailyness of life you will discover that God’s grace is amazing.