Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cooperating with Grace

Last Saturday, I went to confession at a parish the next town over. I like to go to confession there fairly regularly. There is never a line, and the church is a really pretty and peaceful one... a former convent which became the home of a newly formed parish when three struggling churches closed/combined a few years ago.

During my confession, I brought specific attention to two areas in which I am really flailing and failing lately. I told Father that I was lost, and asked for some specific help in addressing these areas of sin. But, he didn't specifically address my concerns. He spoke instead about the need for me to "cooperate with the Grace that God gives me" and then assigned my penance.

As I was kneeling in the church, praying my penance, I was feeling a little frustrated. So much so, that I thought about going back into the confessional and asking for some more clarification. But when I turned around and looked, there was a line. There is never a line in this church. I have been coming here every 2-3 weeks for months and months, and I've never even seen more than one other person. I took that as a very clear sign that I was to trust the priest's counsel, and stayed a bit longer, praying for the guidance I had been seeking.

It turns out that I did get the needed guidance from the priest. He didn't give me the exact "recipe" I was looking for (you know... do this, say these prayers, and all sin will be gone from your life). But I have been meditating a lot on the "cooperate with the Grace that God sends" part of his advice all week.

It has been especially helpful during those times when I am tempted. Typically, when I am tempted toward my most habitual of sins, I will pray for grace, or sometimes even just pray for mercy and compassion.... more often than not, without the success I would (in my rational mind) want. But this week, I've been praying for the courage to cooperate with the Grace I've been sent. This puts the action on me, not God. I am not some poor sinner waiting for God to send me the Grace I need to stop sinning. I am a poor sinner, responsible for my choices and actions, and -- if I am willing to cooperate with the Grace He's sent me -- capable of overcoming my weakness in this moment and turning once again toward God.

It's not perfect. I'm not perfect. I am still failing, but I don't feel that I am flailing quite as often this week. Cooperating with God's Grace makes us partners... I cannot live a good and virtuous life without Him, and neither am I some lump of clay that He molds and manipulates. He gave me free will, a conscience, and the gifts of the Catholic Church and Sacraments... all He is asking is that I cooperate with these blessings, in each moment of every day.

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