The Grace We Need

“And all that we know for sure is that God gives us today. And he gives us the grace that we need today to love each other and to be at peace with each other and to forgive each other. And to accept each other. It’s all we have.”
– Father Mychal Judge, spoken at the homily of fallen fire-fighter, John J. Drennan, Jr. (May 11, 1994)

Life according to Father Mychal Judge was all about this day. He told friends he had never feared death because then he would be reunited with his father who died when he was only 6 years old. He told those who worried, that there was no use worrying because the most powerful God had not yet planned tomorrow. And, he relished living in each and every minute of each and every hour of each and every day. From everything I have read about the man, he truly loved life and he truly loved people. The quote above states it clearly – everything we need we get in today, from God: the grace to love each other, to be at peace with each other, to forgive each other, and to accept each other.

I don’t disagree that God gives us all we need – and grace is one of those things that we clearly do not drum up on our own. What bothers me about the beauty of Mychal’s statement, and the way he lived his life according to that statement, is that so many people turn away from it. This gift of grace in today is too often ignored, returned without opening, or set aside for use at a later date. Believe me when I tell you that in writing that, I am not pointing my finger at others. I am just as much disappointed in myself as others when I recognize our lack of willingness to unwrap this daily gift of grace.

If “it’s all we have”, as Father Mychal stated, then why do we so often turn away from it? Maybe because the grace of God doesn’t change us from being human beings. Sadly, if I have learned anything in my 48 years of life, it is that human beings are inherently selfish, myself included. It is hard work to accept God’s grace. It is even harder work to allow God’s grace to work in my life. To refrain from flashing a rude hand-gesture when someone cuts me off in traffic is nearly impossible after a long day at work. To stop short of arguing with someone’s political beliefs is a brutal undertaking (especially these days when the political climate seems so ugly). To forgive those who have harmed me in a way that seems unforgiveable seems unfair and unjustified. To offer love to a person who has only behaved in unlovable ways is almost painful to think about. And yet, each day of my life, God has given me the grace to do all of those things.

As I continue this pilgrimage with the beloved Father Mychal, one thing I know for sure is that my life will never again be the same. I have been to New York City many times over the years. As a child, my parents would take us in to see the sights and occasionally take in a show. As I have grown into adulthood, I have visited the city with my husband, friends, and have treated my nieces and nephew to a day in the city to do whatever they want for their birthdays. I have always enjoyed the energy of New York City. The visits I have had there with family and friends are some of my favorite memories. Yet, as I approach this spiritual walk to visit Mychal Judge hot-spots along the way, I wonder if I have ever REALLY seen the city. I am excited to find out where the day will take me, what the day will show me, and how God and Father Mychal will hold me.

FatherMychal-with-StreetPersonFather Mychal with Henry, one of his favorite people from the street, in 1991. If you really look at this picture, I believe you can tell that Mychal sees God as he gazes adoringly at this man, as if they are the only two people on earth.


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