The Catholic Defender: Ministers Of Grace
According to the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, grace has several meanings and interpretations. I love the first example: "1. an unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification." Of this grace, St. Paul writes, "Of this I became a minister by the gift of God's grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power" (Ehpesians 3:7). St. Paul is clearly indicating his role being called to preach to the Gentiles. This is a grace given him to fulfill the Lord's will in St. Paul's Ministry. Grace is understood to be a "state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace". I like what St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, "I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:4). This is important because we see the believer is "bestowed" grace which was "confirmed" through the Church. Through the Ministry of the Church, which was established by Jesus Christ. Grace is a "virtue coming from God" that can be seen on just about every page of the bible. St. Paul writes, "Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God's grace" (Acts 20:24).
The idea of grace has been used for many different things. Have you ever heard someone speak of how graceful a professional skater might be as they perform on ice before a large crowd? Or you might compliment someone on how graceful they might look at a particular function. Christians routinely offer grace before meals for thanksgiving for their benefits, for the gift of plenty. For family get togethers, we can see the grace of God extended to just about every facet of life. What makes the Catholic Priesthood so important is that God uses the ordinary to offer the extraordinary. St. Paul writes, "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
This is a very important scripture indicating grace received through the participation of both the bread and the cup. Through this grace, the Lord is clear with their reception of the Eucharist, "I will raise him on the last day"! Jesus commands his Ministers of Grace a very important instruction saying, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." 'And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (John 20:21-23). When you go to Confession, the Lord takes those sins you confess and throws them into the sea of forgetfulness and he remembers them no more. This is another grace from God that is administered by his Church. St. Paul would refer to this grace as the "Ministry of Reconciliation" entrusting to the Church the message of reconciliation. The grace a believer receives through the Confessional is the forgiveness of sins. St. James writes, "My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
I was raised with baseball striving to play Professional ball, I have adopted some of my thoughts of baseball and applied them to faith. I like to see the Priest as like a third base coach, I have seen myself as like a first base coach. We strive to coach people to get them on base, to help them maneuver around the bases until they get to home plate. The challenge many times is to get them into the batters box! Jesus gives his Ministers of Grace another important instruction: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). St. Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39). This is important for the believer to understand, we definitely receive grace through baptism. St. Peter understands that Noah's Ark was a prefiguring of the Church, that the flood waters was a prefiguring of Baptism which saves us now. God imputes Sanctifying grace into the soul cleansing it from Original sin as well as all actual sin. We see the Apostles going out as Ministers of Grace laying hands on those who received the Holy Spirit through their authority. The Lord works through the Ministry of His Church. St. Luke writes, "Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the Apostles... Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them. A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured" (Acts 5:12-16).
St. James writes, "Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:13-15). It is clear that the Lord is working his grace through his Church. Jesus instructs his Apostles, "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery. His disciples said to him, 'if that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.' He answered, 'Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it" (Matthew 19:9-12). There are a couple of points to make from this text: 1. Notice what Jesus says, "Not all can accept this word, but ONLY those to whom it is granted". The priesthood is a special calling. What it takes to be a true Minister of Grace is to be a true child of God who can accept the grace of the Lord. It is true that a Priest is a human being like all of us who can sin and fall, but there is a difference from someone who sins and falls from one who is a counterfeit. Someone who is a wolf in sheep's clothing. An imposter who has infiltrated the Church with the intent of hurting the Church from within. We know that the enemy is at work who has planted weeds inside the kingdom to cause dissension and scandal. To scatter the flock. We need to pray for all our priests that they remain loyal to their calling and to be true leaders of the Church (1 Peter 5:1-5).
2. Notice Jesus said "unless the marriage is unlawful" a divorced man or woman commits adultery. How is a marriage annulled? Can a husband simply annul his marriage by simply willing it? Who decides? The Ministers of Grace decides this question, not the individual party. Jesus said, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 18:15-18). This is the basis for the tribunal system where cases are viewed and decided upon. It is Christ speaking through his Church. St. Paul writes, "Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever". God's grace cannot be contained in the walls of men, but he works though His Ministers of Grace, the offices of His Church. Deepertruth wants to encourage you to frequent the Sacraments to obtain the great graces God provides through His Church.