By BRENDA HOPF
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
We have a barrel in which we collect rainwater via the gutters on our house. When the barrel is full, the water overflows and spreads out beyond the barrel to who knows where. During a recent downpour, I happened to be in the basement near the patio door adjacent to the barrel outside. As I watched the water overflow and spread out in all directions, I remembered something I heard Steve Angrisano say during his keynote talk for the Diocese of Evansville’s Formation Day.
Steve spoke of God’s abundant grace given to us freely, without reserve, and how we are to become vessels that overflow with grace as we share it with others. As I continued to watch the image of the water spilling over the side of the barrel, this message became even clearer. By accepting, receiving and then sharing God’s grace, we become like a barrel that is overflowing in all directions – allowing God’s grace to flow freely into the lives of those around us, and from them into others and so on.
Is it really that simple? It can be – if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in our use of another wonderful gift from God called free will. While I cannot speak for everyone, I dare say I often do not cooperate with God’s grace in the way in which I am called. As Steve Angrisano put it, there are times, with the best of intentions, I act as a conduit of grace – emptying myself through my own agenda and attempting to channel God’s grace directly into someone rather than being a vessel of grace – allowing myself to continually be filled and then allow that grace of God to overflow into the lives of others according to God’s will. When I fail to cooperate with God’s grace, I only wear myself down and become an empty vessel, rather than being a vessel that continually fills and overflows without loss to myself.
I share these thoughts so that we might all become more aware of our need to cooperate with God’s grace and how important that is as it pertains to all the parts of the Body of Christ working together for the good of each one. If we use our free will to seize the many opportunities to fill ourselves with God’s grace, particularly through the sacraments, especially the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist, which we can receive over and over, our barrel will overflow with a grace that spreads in all directions to touch the lives of all those around us.
A good example of the fruits of overflowing grace at work in the Church is the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. This process works best when the entire Body of Christ is cooperating in the sharing of God’s grace. As I have mentioned before, the entire parish family is the RCIA team. This is how Christians were initiated in the time of Jesus, and it is how the Church still calls us to bring the unbaptized into our faith today. We teach them by our example of living the way Jesus lived. Each one of us is so important to this process. While parish catechists and sponsors do wonderful jobs guiding those seeking baptism, the Church believes that the unbaptized best learn the Christian way of life by their witnessing of the example given by every member of the parish family; and the eagerness and willingness we show to reach out and accompany them on their journey.
If we cooperate with God’s grace, we will become vessels of God’s grace that overflow like rainwater from a barrel – in all directions to places we cannot even imagine. This will affect everyone we come into contact with, very possibly bringing the baptized who have fallen away back to the Eucharist and the unbaptized into the Christian way of life. Let us pray that it be so.
May our barrels overflow!
Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.