Naming Grace

For God so loved the world

When she doesn’t get her way, our sweet 2-year-old, Elin Faith, flings herself to the ground, screams at the top of her lungs, and pounds her fists. Eventually, after her face has turned beet red and her cries have resolved to whimpers, her body limps. Early on, her mom and dad tried reasoning (good luck with a 2-year-old!) and cajoling (not so much), but to no effect. Now, during a tantrum, they wisely walk away, or step around, Elin, until she has finished her fit. Then mom or dad scoop her up and lovingly hold her until she’s ready to join the family. Unfortunately, when asserting her own way, Elin has no idea she “condemns” herself to a miserable time instead of enjoying the friendship of her sister and the love and comfort of her parents. She does not realize the cost of her resistance.

On Holy Trinity Sunday, we reflect on God’s actions in the world through the Trinity. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God created the world as a loving Father, who remains invested in our salvation. When humanity chose its own way—condemning ourselves—God refused to condemn us. Instead, out of compassion, God sent his only Son, Jesus, to redeem the world. This ongoing love of the Father and Son flows through the Spirit, who continually invites us to accept God’s love and follow God’s will. But we are often stiff-necked, flinging ourselves to the ground, refusing God’s mercy and kindness for days, years, even a lifetime.

How often have I condemned myself, and my entire household, to a miserable afternoon because I was angry the house wasn’t cleaned my way? How often have I condemned myself and my husband to a lousy time when I was angry and ruined what was to be a great evening? How often have I condemned myself to gloom because I was disappointed in life instead of appreciating God’s gifts before me?

As parents/grandparents, we name grace—God’s saving presence—by modeling God as a loving parent. “God desires only good for you and his will is for our happiness.” “We must take good care of the beautiful earth and each person in it, for God so loves the world.” “No matter how much you fuss, we will not allow you to behave contrary to your own good.” Parents name grace each time they attend Mass, blessing themselves in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching their children of God’s eternal love through the Trinity.

When discussing the many reasons for the decline in church affiliation, one of my compassionate daughters remarked, “But, Mom, don’t you think God is doing everything he can to bring in as many people into Heaven as possible?” So true, honey. There is no greater proof of God’s desire for our salvation than John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” God never condemns, yet we resist salvation and happiness by rejecting God’s love—God’s gifts. But even when we insist on going our own way, the Spirit perpetually attempts to lead us back to the truth of who we are as the Father’s beloved, redeemed by his Son. Now, that’s good news!

When have you “condemned” yourself?

How has Jesus redeemed you?