There is most eloquent phrases in the Collect of today’s Mass; deep in their significance and worthy of much reflection.
We ask God that we be “fashioned by grace”. To rephrase it, may we be formed and shaped by grace.
The Collect continues to say for what purpose. So that we become a “dwelling pleasing” to God.
The Church always prays as she believes. So here we find a succinct expression of God’s will and desire for us, namely, that we cooperate with His grace, day by day, year in and year out, so that we become not just a friend, but a pleasing vessel in whom God can dwell.
That is truly mind-blowing!
The God revealed to us in Jesus Christ is not just a personal God who desires to be our Father, but a God who desires to be so intimately connected with us that He lives with us, yes, but also lives within us! No other faith on the face of the earth makes that claim.
So what is grace, which does this shaping and moulding and fashioning of us?
Grace can be described many ways because it is a divine reality for which human words are inadequate. But the Catechism helps us:
Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us…[it] includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us… (CCC2003)
However else we express it, and we must speak of it in many ways, grace is not an object or a commodity, but it is a person, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
This Divine Person was poured into us at Baptism and sealed within us at Confirmation.
It is good to recall this as the children of our parish continue their sacramental journey towards Confirmation and First Holy Communion.
One of the gifts from the Holy Spirit they will receive at Confirmation, and we who are confirmed have already received, is the gift of Wisdom.
As Our Lord makes very clear in the Gospel, this wisdom is not only different to worldly wisdom but is even contrary or opposite to it.
It is a wisdom that sees the link between anger and murder; between the lustful look and adultery; between divorce and adultery; between taking oaths and honesty.
It is a wisdom that does not settle for correct deeds but for an observant heart; does not just avoid sin but pursues virtue and holiness.
It is a wisdom that liberates us and sets us free.
In a pluralistic society like ours, our Christian liberty requires great care and due attention because pluralism can seep into us like a poison that after a while we just don’t notice, because it’s all around us.
For a Catholic, abortion is always wrong but in a pluralist society there are voices raised which say it is good.
For a Catholic, prostitution is wrong and offends the dignity of women but in a pluralist society there are those who consider it a “profession”, as good and legitimate as any other.
For a Catholic, couples should not live together before marriage but in a pluralist society marriage is optional or can be redefined according to choice.
We are shaped by grace and by the gift of Wisdom, but we do not seek to impose our beliefs on others. The path we choose must be one of respect and constructive dialogue.
The Church never imposes but proposes from the truth we have received from Christ. The most powerful and regular way of proposing the truths of our faith is by the witness of a coherent Catholic life.
And living this way is not our own work or effort. It is the work of grace and our cooperation with it so that we do become “a dwelling pleasing” to God.