Like Spiritual Plants

Balance between Effort and Grace
by Fr. Nathan Miller | Source: Virtue's Clues
Becoming a saint is the point of life. Agreed.

Yet, we all agree again that it’s an impossible task, that is, no one is perfect.
“So why try?” one might ask.

•    “We are already losing 10-1, why should our team keep trying to score goals?”
•    “I can’t lift 100 pounds, why should I lift weights?”
•    “I can’t play the piano perfectly, why should I practice?”

One might answer quickly “Because by trying you will grow.”

I agree. This is true: “Growth in being able to do good things takes practice.” But in the spiritual life, there is also a second essential dimension.

One could also give this answer: “Because it is more important to try, than to achieve.”

Jesus often highlights interior attitudes:

First example: The widow who puts a few cents into the temple treasury. What does she achieve, humanly speaking? Almost nothing. And yet Jesus says she gives more than those who, with pride and trumpet blasts, announce their huge donations.

Second example: The Pharisee and tax collector who both pray in the temple. The “sinner” of the two is the one who goes home justified, because of his humble attitude, says the Lord.

(Mt6:1-8 gives Jesus’ answers in brief)

I grew up protestant; even today I continue to listen to protestant music at times. The message that I heard back then, and sometimes hear again, differs greatly from this positive attitude of giving my humble best. I was taught (or understood incorrectly) that faith in Jesus is enough. He will forgive me, so I don’t need to change.

The minor difference is that, even though we know that we are weak and that we should rely on God’smercy, Jesus’ message goes a step further. He asks us to TRUST HUMBLY in his power too. We, on our own, cannot achieve anything, but by trying we allow God to achieve what we cannot.

There are 2 dimensions to every growth in virtue – (1) our humble effort, and (2) God who makes us grow.

At the end of the day we are like plants: we need water and sun and dirt – but we sure can’t grow if God doesn’t make it happen.

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