October 25th, 2012Maturing in Graceby Kevin O'Brien | http://www.thewordinc.org
"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" - Hebrews 6:1
Faith, Hope and Love are supernatural gifts.
They perfect our natures, but they come from God - from beyond nature. They are graces. And like all graces, we must cooperate with them for them to live and be effective in us.
Thus it may be easier for a person who is by nature trusting or credulous to accept the gift of Faith, but if he does nothing to cooperate with this Faith, to cultivate it or to bring it to bear through works, it will remain dormant within him. "Faith without works is dead", and even the supernatural grace of Faith can turn to gullibility and religiosity if we don't work with it and work with God.
Likewise, if a man by his nature and his innate character is grateful and thankful, he has a wonderful soil in which God can plant the seed of Hope. Once planted, if this man, like a good gardener, cultivates and cares for God's grace growing in the the muck of his own nature, this other-worldly gift of Hope can bear fruit twenty-fold, forty-fold and so on. If not, he is left with the parody of Hope, which is mere optimism or a kind of shallow good humor.
But the greatest of these is Love. And yet it's the gift we take most completely for granted.
The nature that is most receptive to the gift of Love is affection; affectionate people can do much when their natures are perfected by this greatest of grace. But I've known people who are very naturally affectionate and who, on a purely natural level, are quite "loving", but who don't seem to recognize the need for maturing in true love in order to perfect it.
For instance, those of us who have teen-aged daughters know quite well that everyone's their "friend", from the most casual acquaintance on up (except the girls they hate that week). The complexities and sacrifices of real friendship, the mixture of longing and self-giving that make up "philia", is something that texting and shopping at the mall together don't reveal. Girls take time to mature into real friends, into developing the capacity to cooperate with God's gift of love in a mature way.
And of course, while people who are trusting, grateful and affectionate by nature cooperate most easily with the theological graces of Faith, Hope and Love, those of us who by nature are (like me) skeptical, angry and misogynistic have a rougher time of it.
But perhaps we curmudgeons get this compensation. Perhaps we are more able to recognize the other-worldiness of these gifts; perhaps those of us whose natures are far less amiable to grace are at least more astonished by them and by what they can do in us and to us if and when we cooperate with them.
And what, more than anything, completes and perfects Faith, Hope and Love in our souls?
Without the cross, instead of Faith, Hope and Love we are left with their undeveloped and immature counterparts - Gullibility, Pollyana-Optimism, and "Luv" or False-Friendship.
Dear Lord, please give us these graces, these three theological virtues, and help us to cooperate with them, to cultivate them, and prudently to develop them so that they may bring glory to God, salvation to souls, and the Gospel of Christ to the world.