Her heart pounded steadily. Her knees shook with a peaceful disbelief. “What sort of greeting is this?” she pondered. Her young teenage body knelt upon the dirt beneath her, her eyes fixed on the celestial light pouring forth from her unexpected messenger.
Young Mary of Nazareth had never heard such a phrase: “full of grace”. The Scriptures had never recorded that greeting before that time. What did this cryptic message really mean and what was God trying to tell her?
God consumed Mary with His love. Mary’s perfect submission to God’s perfect love stands, eternally, as the example of what God seeks to do in our lives every minute of every day. We are called to live like Mary, to be “filled with grace”. That reality begs one question: what exactly is grace?
Put simply, grace is God’s life in us.
Far too complex to cover in this brief article (the Catechism alone offers dozens of paragraphs), grace is what turns sinners into saints and murderers into martyrs. It’s with that profound truth in mind that the Life Teen movement races forward into 2008.
As we listened to God over the past few months our staff was given many images, words and directions. The consistent themes throughout our prayer were the Blessed Virgin Mary, the witness of the saints and God’s undeserved blessing and constant presence within Life Teen. Finally, this theme of “Consumed by Grace” was brought forth and prayerfully confirmed by Staff and Board Members.
The more we thought about it the crazier it sounded. “How can we talk about something so intangible, like “grace”, to a teenager at camp?” some wondered. “How can we bring grace to life, practically, at a training conference?” others feared. “Maybe we should just stick with something a little “easier” to discuss, a little less challenging.” I even offered.
Those fears only offered even more confirmation that we were on the right track. Our humanity is (and will have to be) consumed by God’ divinity entirely in 2008…that’s what grace is and that’s what grace does.
It is by grace that God’s will becomes our will and that is the path to sainthood. Grace, too, is indissolubly linked to the Sacraments. We believe that by His grace, God changes us from the inside out, literally so in the Eucharist.
Now, some will assuredly think Life Teen crazy for even attempting to unpack such a deep theme with ministry leaders, much less postmodern teenagers. Bring it on!
Any crazier than a fourteen year old, pregnant virgin mounting a donkey and traveling ninety miles in her third trimester? Any crazier than a righteous man being visited by an angel three times and told he would raise God as his own son? Any crazier than a fisherman turned evangelist and “Shepherd” to whom Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom?
Any crazier than any of the stories of greatness experienced by any of our older brothers or sisters in the faith, the saints, whose lives were each, personally, consumed by the grace and life of God?
Keep your eyes open in 2008, Life Teen family. God’s grace is abounding and is working for the salvation of others and you are an important part of that work.
You, like Mary, will be consumed and filled by God’s grace in intimate new ways this year, real ways, world-altering ways…if you continue to consecrate your life to God (through Her).
And, by God’s grace, the world will never be the same; that is what is so amazing about grace and that is why we are going to share and spread the beauty of God’s grace in all new ways in the coming months!
May our Lady, full of grace, guide and protect us, leading us always closer to Her Son.