Sunday Mass: Grace Required

February 08th
At the start of a new year, many people make resolutions. Some resolve to lose weight, to exercise more, and to watch what they eat. Others resolve to put family responsibilities before their careers. Others promise to limit the hours given to their digital devices and to use that newfound time to get involved in charitable activities.
But after a few months, many people forget those resolutions. Not because they no longer want to do what they decided, but because they lack the strength and willpower required. They find things just too hard.
As people of faith, we make resolutions related to our spiritual life. We resolve to pray every day, to read the Bible, to faithfully attend Sunday Mass, to get involved in parish ministries, to become better Christians.
But again, despite our good intentions, we often give up. We find it hard to remain faithful to our resolutions.
However, when it comes to improving our spiritual lives, it is not our work and effort that are required but rather God's grace and power. We see that in the three readings proclaimed this coming Sunday.
In Sunday's First Reading (Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8), Isaiah becomes God's prophet not because of what he does, not because he studies the scriptures, not because he develops oratorical skills, but because of what God does. God sends an angel to touch Isaiah's lips, thereby purifying him and filling him with the grace and power needed to deliver God's word.
The same is true in our Second Reading (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). Paul says that he went from being a persecutor to a preacher of the Gospel, not because he had a change of heart but because God dramatically entered his life and turned it around.
Paul recognized it was God's grace working in him that made the difference. As he said, "For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am."
That life-changing touch of the Lord is also seen in Sunday's Gospel (Luke 5:1-11). Peter becomes a disciple not because he decides that being a follower of Jesus is better than smelling of fish for the rest of his life, but because Jesus enters his boat, and enters his life.
Peter acknowledges his unworthiness before Jesus. "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Yet Jesus persists in reaching out, in changing Peter. "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
Isaiah, Paul, and Peter grew spiritually, they grew in their relationship with God, not because of what they resolved to do - but because God entered their lives. They were touched by the grace of God. The same is true for us.
It is the grace and power of God that changes us for the better, that causes us to grow in holiness, and that makes us the Christians we are meant to be.
If we could change ourselves, we would have no need of a Savior. No, like Isaiah, Paul, and Peter we are changed by the grace and action of God.
The more we consciously put ourselves in the presence of God by devoting time to personal prayer, by reading the scriptures, by faithfully attending Sunday Mass, by receiving the Sacraments, and by participating in the life of the Church, the more we are touched by the grace of God and we are changed.
Good resolutions and personal effort might improve our everyday lives, but our spiritual lives are improved by the action of God. As Saint Paul put it "by the grace of God I am what I am."
© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski