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The Two-Fold Gift of Sacramental Grace: To Heal and To Uplift
One of the marks of contemporary experience seems to be a widespread sense of brokenness, a sort of heaviness of being. Therefore, one of the least debated claims of Christianity is that we need healing, both personal and societal. Social analysts repeatedly look for the causes of this individual and collective discontent. While there are cultural factors that contribute to postmodern dis-ease, Christian theology has always offered a root cause for humanity’s discontent: original sin that we inherit and the personal sins that we commit. If sin were the end of the story, Christianity would indeed be rather bleak. As its name implies, however, Christianity does not stop with our brokenness but rather points us upward and outward to Christ, who came into this world precisely to save us from our sin and the weight of its effects. While debate may continue regarding the roots of humanity’s problems, central to the message of the Good News of the Gospel is the truth that Jesus came that we might have life (see Jn 10:10). This sharing in divine life by grace, received especially through prayer and the sacraments, is freely offered to us. Grace is a divine gift that both heals our brokenness and uplifts us to true spiritual greatness. Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote of this two-fold effect of grace in the Summa Theologiae: “In order to live righteously a man needs a twofold help of God—first, a habitual gift whereby corrupted human nature is healed, and after being healed is lifted up so as to work deeds meritorious of everlasting life, which exceed the capability of nature. Secondly, man needs the help of grace in order to be moved by God to act.” These curative and transformative effects of grace are precisely the antidote to our broken hearts and our broken world.