Though I did not cite the passage, last week was a commentary on: 1 Jn 4:16, “God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.” When the love of the trinity moves outside of the trinity into creation, then we call that “grace.”
Practically, we get an inkling of grace in the experience of the spontaneous hug of a child, an unexpected act of kindness, the undeserved helping hand, the gratuitous compliment from someone else, the unexpected beauty of a rainbow that delights us, or a moment when all of a sudden we realize how fragile and special creation is, and how all creation (including us) is connected to God and one another.
Grace brings a sense of joy and gratitude into our lives, and we intuitively want to embrace it as true and celebrate it. Some people will dismiss these experiences as serendipitous, coincidental, accidental, or purely emotional. People who try to explain away such powerful experiences suffer from what Matthew Kelly calls “soul denial.”
“Soul denial” is the assumption that humans have no eternal soul. It is the denial that there is such a thing as a spiritual dimension to our lives. It is a common assumption of materialistic systems (Capitalism, Communism, for example), which seek to explain absolutely everything in terms of the physical flow of energy or historical forces and interactions. It robs humans of value, denies higher spiritual faculties and puts humans on the same plane as anything purely material.
The life of Jesus is filled with contradictions to “soul denial.” Jesus would forgive sins (a spiritual act) along with a physical healing, or he would drive out demons (spiritual creatures) into a herd of pigs (physical sign), making him unpopular with the farmers in the area.
When tempted by the devil at the beginning of his ministry, he rebuffed him by saying, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God,” indicating that humans live for more than physical needs. He famously advised his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God, and all things will be given them besides. The world Jesus lived and operated in transcended the mere physical world inhabited by those in “soul denial.” Why would anyone limit one’s horizons so drastically when one could choose to abide in God and have God abide in him/her?
Now that is what real human freedom is all about: choosing to be transformed by having the love of God poured into our hearts (Rom 5:5).