The Invitation to Know the Gifts of God
Preparing My Heart for Grace
Christian music introduced me to the Psalms. Clearly, my catechism was limited.
Praise and worship music entered my life around the same time I discovered beauty and wonder of God’s Word in the Bible. In those early days of my Christian journey, the Psalms produced many inspiring “aha moments.” It was also when I discovered that most Christian musicians are plagiarizers! Honestly, the Psalms, filled with praise and worship, present the perfect lyrics for a Christian song. Hard to blame musicians for “borrowing” from them.
Psalm 84 is one filled with praise and worship lyrics gold. These verses, in particular, bring joy to my heart:
Better one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
Better the threshold of the house of my God than a home in the tents of the wicked.
For a sun and shield is the LORD God, bestowing all grace and glory.
The Lord withholds no good thing from those who walk without reproach.
O LORD of hosts blessed the man who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:11–13)
A Heart With Which We Can Trust the Lord
Praising God is just one of the many amazing ways to prepare our hearts to receive the grace of God. In fact, I believe one of grace’s finest works is preparing our hearts to trust in the Lord; with it, we can receive all the other glorious blessings God has for us. The gift of faith is another gift from the Lord, though sadly fewer and fewer seem willing to open that gift and use it to its fullest capacity. Cultivated faith grows receptivity to other valuable gifts, such as hope, mercy, and love. Living fully in the light of these incredible gifts, and so much more, is how we can glorify God.
My Hypocritical Faith
Sometimes the Word of God simply cracks me up. Aside from St. Paul’s sweet greeting, “O stupid Galatians!” (Galatians 3:1), the verses that tickle me also cut right to the core of my not-so-stellar behavior. A case in point is the passage in Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus says, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?” (Luke 6:46). Ouch, Big Guy. The lessons I’ve ignored most frequently are usually the ones I’ve needed the most! I become more in-tuned to the Lord’s teachings when I avail myself of all the amazing grace offered to me. God does not ask the impossible; in fact, each opportunity can be immensely enjoyed and can restore peace in one’s life.
Praying Is Easier Than You Think
When I was growing up, prayer was not presented as a routine (or enjoyable) activity. As a kid, my grandmother would always hand me a set of rosary beads whenever I was homesick during my sleepovers at her house. Great idea, Gram, I would think to myself; by the time I get even halfway through this rosary thing, I will be so bored I will fall fast asleep. That is not what she had in mind. Now, as a faithful adult, I completely understand why she handed me those precious beads when I was afraid. She knew the power of prayer, especially prayer united with the intercession of the Blessed Mother. Not surprisingly, I always did fall asleep, but it was not because I was bored. Instead, covered in a mantle of prayer, peace would return to my worried soul, allowing me to rest.
Turning Self-Talk into Heavenly Conversations
For years, I talked to myself. I chatted a lot, but I never had anything nice to say to myself. As I was learning to assimilate prayer into my everyday, ordinary life, I decided to make a conscious effort to transfer my negative self-talk into encouraging conversations with people in heaven. Now, my internal conversations are with Jesus, Mary, my guardian angel, and whoever of my saint posse are best suited to my current situation. It has been life-changing and, I believe, responsible for the deep abiding faith I’ve been blessed to enjoy in my life.
The Grace Trifecta at Work
Prayer, sacrament, and Scripture each offers in its way a tremendous outpouring of grace into our lives. Grace readies our hearts to hear what God has to say, and to receive this grace; we have only to ask. Grace helps us believe in the hope that “whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22), but this doesn’t mean you need a mountain of faith; God can work with our mustard seed of faith (Luke 17:6). The mustard seed is a teeny tiny seed that blooms into one of the largest bushes.
When we offer Jesus even the smallest piece of our hearts, it comes back to us bloomed beyond our expectations. God is never outdone in his generosity. St James writes, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
St. Mark includes Jesus’s teaching, “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24). In her diary, the Polish nun and mystic St. Faustina shares these words from Jesus, “At three o’clock, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if only for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My Passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy. In this hour, I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virtue of My Passion” ( Maria Faustina Kowalska, St. Faustina’s Diary, 1320. www.thedivinemercy.org).
These are all tremendous promises; however, unless we make time to seek a relationship with Jesus made possible by grace, we may never witness them in action in our own lives.