Remember the story of how Wendy Darling first met Peter Pan? She found him weeping in the family nursery. Separated from his shadow during a narrow escape, he had returned and found the shadow but didn’t know how to reattach it. With motherly compassion, Wendy sewed it back on for him. Within moments, Peter and the reunited shadow were flying happily around the nursery.
Defining grace is about as easy as grasping one’s own shadow. Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, grace looms large … yet, in the heat of day, it may seem barely there. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines grace as “favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God.” (#1996) Brief as it is, this current understanding of grace has been 2000 years in the making. Over the centuries, Scripture, tradition and human experience have helped us to catch occasional glimpses of grace.
Throughout the Scriptures, those who are graced are said to be favored by God, the beneficiaries of God’s unearned, undeserved, covenantal love. St. Augustine described our graced relationship with God by writing, “Working with us, God completes what he started working in us; for at the beginning, he works to makes us will, and at the end, works with us when we will.”