The Sunday following Easter Sunday is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday in the Catholic church. Hence, it is fitting for us to understand what exactly we mean by God’s grace and mercy.
In Christian understanding, Grace is the spontaneous, unmerited gift of the divine favor in the salvation of sinners; Grace is also the divine influence operating in the individuals for their sanctification. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as: “Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ …” (CCC 1997).
In human relationship, showing grace means showing kindness to someone, even when he/she doesn’t deserve it. Grace is going out of the way to show compassion, kindness and love to someone, even if, he/she might not appreciate it.
In spiritual arena, Grace is a gratuitous gift of God and it is a participation in His life (Cf. CCC 1999). “…from his fullness have we all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16). Grace is received, for example, when God answers our prayers and works in our lives. It is only through grace that we can be saved and when we are saved, then we have victory over sin and death.
There is a difference between grace and mercy: Grace is God’s goodness freely given, even if it is not asked for, nor deserved. Whereas, Mercy is the compassion and kindness shown to someone, who deserves to be punished. In other words, mercy is an act, by which a culpable person is relieved from his/her punishment. Mercy comes first, Grace comes second as an act of gratuitous favor.
The first action of God’s grace is experienced through Baptism, in which the baptized is freed from the state of sinfulness. Every time when we commit sin and repent, as we grow, it is through an act of God’s mercy, our sins are forgiven.
Let us cherish God’s mercy and grace given to us through Jesus Christ.
Fr. Arul Joseph V.