Made for More

My parents were going to name me Stephanie.

At least, that’s what they’ve told me.

I used to imagine what it would be like if that were my name.

Would I go by Steph, Stephie, Annie, even the innocent and perky Teppy that I’ve heard some Stephanies go by?

But they named me Anna, instead.

No nicknames, nothing to shorten or rearrange.

Just…Anna.

Sometimes I get the an as in can, other times the an is as it is in apple.

But however it’s pronounced, it’s just Anna.

I never liked my name much growing up.

My friends had names that meant something beautiful. My sister’s meant Princess. Some names are unique, glamorous, popular. Some of my friends became friends because they shared the same name.

Anna?

My name means graceful.

Full of grace.

I used to imagine the day when I would actually become graceful. I’d joke about how my name means graceful but I’m a big klutz, and I’d dream of the day when I would not just be graceful, but exude grace, and charm.

It still imagine it, to be truthful.

When I grew older, I began to appreciate my name for what it is.

Simple, sweet, succinct.

But that grace bit stuck in my throat, because I began to realize that it didn’t reference elegance and fluidity, but rather, the thing, the intangible noun that references mercy, favor, and charity.

Full of grace?

Not me.

I’m a sinner, a roiling mess, unworthy of being considered graceful due to my propensity to screw up. If I have any grace, it’s just a smattering, but no way am I full to the brim.

When my parents tell me that I’m “full of it,” the “it” does not mean grace in the least bit.

My parents said I was named after Anna, the prophetess Luke writes about.

My Aunt Anna says I am named after her.

Some have told me that I should be associated with my namesake is St. Ann, Mary’s mother.

Either way…full of grace?

Me?

I don’t look like I’m full of grace. I don’t feel full of grace. I certainly don’t act like it.

What is grace, anyway?

How did I get it – a lot of it?

I was a peer minister when I was in high school. I taught religious education – the sacraments, the saints, the ins and outs of our faith – to middle school kids at my parish.

I remember the woman who led it all, the youth minister, a dear friend, trying to impart the beauty of grace onto these middle school boys and girls.

I remember her standing up at the front of the room, a gaggle of 12 year olds staring up at her, showing videos and powerpoints and weird visuals with dirty milk or water balloons or gum mashed inside a $20 bill (that one always hurt to watch for the broke college kids).

What I remember best about her talks is that she didn’t just give them to the kids sprawled at her feet. She gave her talks to everyone in the room with ears to hear and eyes to see. As she walked back and forth, part of me wanted to sit at her feet too, with all the kids, because I longed for what she was talking about.

I longed for grace.

Rather, I long for it.

Grace.

The beautiful gift God gives to us at every stage in our lives.

Baptismal grace, the gift that transforms us from a squirming mess of skin and fat and white lace into a member of the Church, a true child of God.

Grace from confession and the other sacraments.

Grace from the reception of the Holy Spirit.

The Catechism tells us that grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that god gives us to respond to his call to become children of god, adoptive sons, and partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life (*1996).

Grace is favor.

Grace is free.

Grace lets us partake in being divine and eternal, in being like God.

Sorry, let me repeat that for those of you who think I’m kidding.

Grace lets us be like God.

Now, now. Don’t slap a heresy label on me just yet, listen to what I have to say.

so God made man in His own image, in His own image God created them; male and female he created them” (read).

He created us in His image, to respond to and receive and reciprocate His love, His Beauty, His eternal life.

We are made for more than this earth, we are called to a higher love, because after God created the universe, He just wasn’t satisfied, so He made us.

We were made for Him and like Him.

But let us remember another part of the creation story, a darker part, when our mother and father turned their backs on Him.

We are like them, too.

I am gullible like Eve and passive like Adam.

And unfortunately, quite often it is easier to see them in me than Christ.

That is where grace comes in.

After we turned our backs on Him, God gave us a way to come back. He didn’t just shrug and create new humans who wouldn’t mess up, He gave us a way to come back to Him.

He gives us a way to come back to Him, and we don’t even have to earn it.

It is free.

It is undeserved.

But it’s ours.

So how do we get grace, the kids would always ask my youth minister. What do we have to do?

Like I said – and the Catechism said before me – it’s free. It’s a gift. It cannot be earned. God gives it to us when we participate in sacraments, when we pray, when we live out our faith. He just offers it!

There is a catch though.

You see, you have to know you have grace to really have it.

“Grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. Reflection on God’s blessing in our life…offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.”  (*2005).

In other words, God offers the gift of grace to everyone, but in order to have that gift, you need to accept it.

Imagine a friend offering you a wrapped present, and you thank them for it but set it aside without opening it and consequently using it. Is it really yours? How would your friend feel? A little scorned, perhaps. Disappointed.

It is in accepting the gifts that we bless the giver. We bless the giver when we gratefully and humbly accept whatever it is they’ve offered us.

Truly, it is only in faith – “only in humility and poverty” (*2713) –  that we can accept the gift of grace, a gift we all deeply need.

Tell me again what grace does though, besides just making us children of God. My youth minister never tired of explaining things.

Grace heals. Cleanses. Adopts. Ignites. Justifies. Sanctifies. Perfects.

Grace restores. Grace restores us to our original state, our like God state.

We constantly need the gift of grace.

When we constantly sin, we constantly need forgiveness, we constantly need sanctification.

Through Christ’s sacrifice, we have been justified and sanctified, and it is in humbling ourselves to His profession of love that we are forgiven and saved. It is in coming back to Christ that we come back to our Christ-like state.

So. Anna.

Graceful.

Full of grace.

Me?

Am I really looked at by God as full of grace?

There was a woman, quite a long time ago, who must have wondered the same thing. A good girl, she did what she needed to do and was loved by many. But when someone greeted her as “full of grace,” she trembled.

What kind of greeting is this one, she wondered?

How can this be? I am a simple girl, what have I done for God to find so much favor with me?

But again, she was greeted “Hail, full of grace, blessed are you among women, Mary!”

And the Virgin became Mother.

Who am to answer to “full of grace,” as our Mother did so many years ago?

Me?

But yes, God says, yes. I have found favor with you, with all of you, just as I found favor with Mary.

“For where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Read).

Just as sin reigned in death, Grace will reign in bringing us all to eternal life.

But by no means shall we sin simply to receive more grace. We have died to sin, the sacrifice was paid when Christ died to sin, for sin. Therefore, we should no longer submit to sin, because sin has no power over us any longer. We are full of grace. Sin shall no longer be our masters, for we are not under the law but under grace (Read).

We need grace.

We are offered grace.

Grace heals. Cleanses. Adopts. Ignites. Justifies. Sanctifies. Perfects.

Grace restores.

Grace.

Me?

I suppose.

I don’t look like I’m full of grace. I don’t feel full of grace. I certainly don’t act like it.

But I’m made for it.

I’m made for more.

We all are.

*If you don’t have a print copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, order or view it online here. The numbers following the bold quotes are the article numbers, not the pages.

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