Grace and Nature – Monday of the Third Week of Advent

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Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Matthew 21:23-27
When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, open my heart and mind to your Word in Scripture, and in hearing you, let me follow you more closely.
Encountering Christ:
1. We Often Look at Things from a Merely Human Perspective: Was John’s Baptism of heavenly or human origin? The chief priests and the elders were unwilling to acknowledge John’s mission as heavenly inspired. We too are often tempted to overlook heaven’s impact in our daily life. We frequently see both the causes and our solutions to situations in our lives from a practical standpoint. For example, we might blame a job loss on the economy or the company’s policies and begin immediately browsing the internet for new job opportunities. None of this is bad, per se, but what should be the first reaction of a Christian? Should we, rather, first ask Our Lord, “What are you doing here? What do you want to show me?”

2. Grace Builds upon Nature: Christianity does not juxtapose nature and grace. God is the source of both our natural and supernatural gifts. Therefore, in principle, God’s gifts should not be in competition with each other. If they are, it is a consequence of our misunderstanding or simply our fallen nature at play. Nature and grace are meant to go hand in hand. The more human virtues we possess, such as sincerity and perseverance, the more fruit grace can bear in our lives. This connection between grace and nature is similar to the relationship between faith and works; one builds upon the other. We respond with our works to the gift of faith. Let’s pray for the grace to live greater virtue and thus give even more glory to God by our works.

3. We Must Be Open to Receive Grace: The chief priest were more concerned with entrapping Jesus than with learning the truth. Their lack of openness is why Jesus did not directly answer their question. He basically asked them, “Are you willing to acknowledge the hand of God in John’s and my ministries?” When they were evasive, he responded in kind. God wants to give us his grace, but he will not force it upon us. To receive grace, we first have to be open to it.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for all the gifts you have given me, both natural and supernatural. Help me grow in human virtues and let those same virtues prepare me to receive your grace and do your will. Let me grow ever more into the person I am called to be, and so better reflect your image to those around me.
For Further Reflection: “Grace: What It Is and What It Does,” Catholic Answers,
Fr. John Bullock, LC, works with Regnum Christi in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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