“When [Barnabas] arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord. Act 11:23
Doing lectio divina (divine reading) recently on the passage from Acts 11, I was struck by the verse above, especially the phrase: he “saw the grace of God.” Barnabas saw the grace of God in the Greeks of Antioch who had received the Gospel about Jesus. This was an unexpected development. Prior to this, the Gospel had only been proclaimed to Jews. Rather than seeing this new development as a problem or something to be resisted, Barnabas “saw the grace of God” in it.
The verse led me to reflect on where I see the grace of God. How do I see it in what is going on around me and especially in what is new? What does that grace look like? Of course, what I see depends on how I look.
The reflection for the day by Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP in the booklet, Living with Christ, had this to say.
“No matter how tragic and sad the situation, Christ walks firmly and confidently in our midst to heal the wounded, to teach, to forgive, and to open up new horizons. That’s just God’s way. Barnabas teaches us the secret of faith. By letting go of our assessment of the way things are, we make room for the act of faith.” (p. 111)
What helps me let go of my assessment and create space in me to see God’s grace at work? I began to think about what in Benedictine life helps me develop this way of seeing. First, Benedict says, look everywhere. “We believe the divine presence is everywhere.” (RB 19:1) So I am encouraged to seek God in all things, not just at special times of prayer or peace, for instance.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Where is God in tragedies? In former times, people used to say God caused the tragedy. We don’t believe God causes tragedies anymore. That is not the kind of God we worship. God is the spirit that sustains people through tragedy and suffering. God is manifest in the response of individuals and communities to draw together in solidarity with those who suffer bringing healing, comfort, strength and recovery.
It is easy to look at our world today and ask where God is in all that is going on. Our faith says God is at work even when so much appears to be in chaos. God is doing something new. We simply don’t have the sight yet to recognize what that new thing is.
Another practice Benedictines are encouraged to cultivate to help us see the grace of God is gratitude. Gratitude to God, gratitude to one another, gratitude for all the small and large ways that we experience the life abundant that God gives us. This practice of gratitude teaches us to open our hearts to the life and love that are given to us new each day.
I see the grace of God at work in the communities of Holy Wisdom Monastery. So many people are involved in the oblates, Sunday Assembly, Friends of Wisdom Prairie, Ecumenical Center for Clergy Spiritual Renewal, volunteers and coworkers. Their enthusiasm and good spirit attract others. There is the grace of God at work!
Where do you see the grace of God at work in your life today?