God’s Grace

Images that convey the immensity and immediacy of grace

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Deacon YerhotUsing the image of an iceberg (the majority of which is submerged and unseen), we can think of the hidden unseen magnitude of the grace of God for us. Of the iceberg, we see the portion exposed to the sun, wind and air, but it is only a minimal revealing of the greatness God offers. Somehow, we need to be able to see underwater, beneath the exposed portion, to apprehend, in some manner, the vastness of God’s grace given to us. Yet, it is cold, is it not, the iceberg image? Is it, then, an apt figure? What would be warmer to our sensibilities? To what else can be compared the immensity of God’s grace and love?

Might God’s grace be apprehended by imagining ourselves standing beneath Niagara Falls with all that water rushing down upon us? Its power, the volume, the roar, the immensity of such an experience. Does this give us a sense of the gift of grace to us? Yet, this is too traumatic an image. We would be crushed under the waterfall. God’s grace does not crush, it strengthens. To what can we compare the gift of God’s grace?

Perhaps we can consider the depth of a mother’s love, the strength of a father’s care, the fidelity of friends, the bond of brothers — these lived realities may give us an appreciation for the magnitude of the grace of God for us, sources of grace for many, shared with us this very day — that is, if we only take the opportunity to recognize and respond.

What other images can we use? His grace comes all too often in hidden ways. It is subtle. A mere whisper at times; a slight breath, as described in the Scriptures. We may see God’s back but never his face, as the Old Testament reminds us. His face would be too much for us to apprehend. We would die.

Nothing we might imagine does God’s grace justice — for it is too vast and too indescribable. Volumes have been written attempting to do so. Yes, we use human terms and images that move our hearts and minds to some extent, but they cannot definitively convey this reality. Nevertheless, every day, without ceasing, his grace is ready and available. How will I experience grace in a particular manner today?

God wants us to live and to receive the grace that he is extending to us. He wants us to thrive, not die, and live eternally, so he hides his face, the source of grace. He says: “My grace is enough for you. It is available to you now. Be still and receive what I give.”

If we wish to see the face of God, the source of all grace, we must look to the humanity of Jesus, which means we must look to our neighbor, we must look to the poor. They are the face of God today. They are sources of God’s grace. They are the face of Jesus! How often I wished to have seen, to have touched and spoken with, Jesus of Nazareth!

Often I must be reminded that I can see and touch him, today, in the faces and lives of the people to whom I am sent as a deacon. We cannot see the face of God nor recognize his grace, ever present to us though hidden from view, except through the vessels through which he has chosen to reveal himself: bread and wine, man and woman, the poor, the condemned, the hungry and the homeless, the diocese and the universal Church. These are the faces of God. These are the images that convey a true sense of the immensity and immediacy of God’s grace!

Yes, God’s grace is so enormous that it is like an iceberg nearly wholly submerged in water. We see only the tip. We readily recognize only a fraction. To go deep, we must be willing to see not only with the eyes of the body, but also with the eyes of faith, which penetrate the depths.

God’s grace is so powerful and plentiful that it is like standing under Niagara Falls and receiving all that water.

God’s grace is so mysterious that it must be recognized in the Eucharist, in the sacraments, in the People of God, and in the midst of suffering and death. Most urgently today, God’s grace is to be recognized in the cross, the great sign of mercy, love and obedience. The cross from which mercy flows, grace abounds, love is shown, humility lived, forgiveness given and fidelity consummated. The cross is the one boast of St. Paul, a scandal to the unbeliever, derision to earthly powers, the great identifier of one’s sonship, the purification from all sin and impurity.

The cross is ever-present, though once and for all. The cross is that which we must pass. The cross is mere foolishness to so many of this age. In the cross, we find the enormity of God’s love and grace for us, which bursts forth in the brilliance of the Resurrection. We can and must witness the cross in our humanity. We can and must apprehend, there, God’s grace and the foretaste of the divinity into which we are assumed in Jesus.

The cross is the image that best captures the immensity of God’s love and grace given to us. The cross has sustained the hope of generations. The cross is lived now in the Body of Christ, and seen in the face of humanity. In it, we find incarnate grace.

DEACON ROBERT YERHOT, MSW, is the assistant director emeritus of the diaconate for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota. He sits on the editorial board for the Josephinum Diaconal Review and has previously published articles on diaconal spirituality.

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