Our own St. Mary Magdalen Parish, near Orlando, has a good cross-section of family life. There are children, teenagers, young adults, single folks, grandparents and great-grandparents. And we have widows and widowers.
And we are all one family, brothers and sisters in Christ—one and all children of the Father. Our joy and love for one another is quite evident as we gather together before and after Sunday and weekday Masses. Our priests are true spiritual fathers whose love for all of us is so very evident.
From the fourth century, St. Ambrose speaks to the heart of the modern family and parish.
Let your mind “stand open to receive him, unlock your soul to him, offer him a welcome in your mind, and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, the joy of grace.[i]
The Riches of Simplicity
Simplicity may seem illusive today because of the pressures on the family (or the parish): so many things to be done, so many distractions coming from all directions, the pressures of strained or broken relationships, the departure of loved ones.
Simplicity is to trust God in all things—budgets, debts, illness, death and whatever else may otherwise shake your faith. It is also to thank God for all the good that comes your way.
Simplicity is born of humility; humility is the result of standing in right relationship with God—you are creature and he is Creator; your every breath is a gift from our God.
The Treasures of Peace
Peace comes with trust in God, in believing that in all things God is with us—with you and me, with every member of our families and with our parish family.
This is the “peace that surpasses understanding,” a peace that is born in the heart of Christ and given to us freely if we can but trust and surrender to God.
The Joy of Grace
In my younger and even more ignorant years, I thought of grace as a gift of God—and it is. However, I saw it as a commodity God would hand me if I would only be a good little boy.
Since I am a bit less ignorant now, I realize that grace ultimately is better understood in terms of my relationship with God. God loves me, wants me to know him, love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him in the next.”[ii] His gift of grace is his invitation and, when I surrender to him of my own free will, he draws me into the embrace of his love, wisdom and divinity.
“Sanctifying grace” is a share in the divine life of God. Nothing less—and there can be nothing more this side of the Pearly Gates.
“Actual graces” are special gifts from God that enable us to turn the other cheek, help the less fortunate and keep our priorities in order.
Grace is a great joy—it helps us focus on who God wants us to become.
Grace is a great joy because it is God’s special gift in which we know that God has touched us and our families; we can bask in his love and friendship always ready to share that great joy with others.
[i] St. Ambrose (fourth century), Bishop of Milan, Liturgy of the Hours, Book III, page 469
[ii] Baltimore Catechism, response to the question, “Why did God make me?”