Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I am found; was blind, but now I see
Opening his speech by citing the lyrics of the song Amazing Grace, Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB last Friday addressed the 31st Annual Flame Ministries (FMI) Congress on 15 January.
Held over the weekend from 15 to 17 January at John XXIII College Theatre Hall, Mt Claremont took “Grace Triumphant” as their central theme.
Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey also spoke during the event, together with Spiritual Director of the Malaysian/Singaporean Catholic Community Australia, Father Lucius Roy Pereira and FMI Senior Directors Kaye Rollings and Cyrus D’Souza.
Speaking about grace, the Archbishop Costelloe first explained the meaning of grace.
“If I had to sum it up, I would say that we might think of grace as the undeserved, unheard of, unimaginable goodness of God, who passionately desires the best for us and works to bring that about in our lives,” Archbishop Costelloe stated.
“We are called and invited and helped by God to respond, and when Grace is at work, and we can respond or return to responding, that’s Grace triumphant.”
Using the Letter to Timothy and the second letter of St Peter, Archbishop Costelloe also explained that God’s desire for our salvation and His Grace is a pure gift, and it is through Christ that He has given that gift to us.
“For us as Christians, we understand it is fundamental to our faith as Christians, that it is in and through Jesus that the gift of Salvation, the grace of Salvation is given to us,” he said.
“What we are all about is returning Church to Christ and returning Christ to the Church and not ashamed or reticent about saying it over and over again: if Jesus is not at the heart of everything we are and do and want to achieve, we should close the whole show and go on.”
Unfolding the concept of grace deeper, Archbishop Costelloe scrutinised the scriptural references in the hymn Amazing Grace, the prodigal son and the lost sheep.
“We are talking about a story which reveals the grace of God at work in our lives. What Jesus is saying to us is: this is how the Father in heaven deals with us, and I think it’s worthwhile to be asking ourselves is this the instinctive image of God I carry around with me?” he said.
“When we talk about grace triumphing, it’s so much bigger and more significant than we can even imagine.
“This extraordinary, unthinkable, unimaginable, salvific desire of God to save everybody, and how God is at work in everybody’s lives trying to bring about the salvation of people, that’s the image that’s coming out of these stories; [and] this is what Amazing Grace is,” he continued.
Towards the end of his speech, Archbishop Costelloe reminded those present how God wants to bring about His will of salvation and gift of grace can be very different from how we want to receive it. While we may not always know what our actual needs, the Lord does. It is in fully trusting Him we can receive the gift of grace and healing. placing our full trust in Him
“It’s God powerful presence through the Holy Spirit, at work in us, affecting our salvation, leading us to the fullness of life. That’s grace and in the Catholic tradition, ultimately, when we speak about grace, we’re speaking about God giving Himself to us,” he said.
“Grace is God’s self-gift to us, [and] it was first offered to us at baptism.”
In his closing statement, Archbishop Costelloe invited us to go on a journey to understand the meaning of grace and the relationship we have with God, by reflecting on the Gospels and experiences in our lives.
“Where have we experience the strange, sometimes messy, hesitant, but effective healing of Jesus, and the compassion as well as forgiveness of God in our lives? “It’s God’s grace that will bring this about in us. It’s us, allowing ourselves to be so united with Christ, that we begin to think His thoughts and speak His words and love with His heart. That’s what communion with Christ should be in us. That’s grace triumphant. Let’s hope and pray and trust that we will be people who are open to this power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, drawing us into this deep communion with the Lord. So that we see with His eyes, we hear with His ears, we speak with His voice, and we love with His heart,” he concluded.