I am enrolled in a short Bible Study at my parish. The name is "Jesus in the New Testament" and it is a very brief look - almost an overview - of most of the New Testament. This week was The Letters to the Romans and the Philippians.
Much time was spent on "grace". Grace is the Gift of God's relationship with us. Relationship. According to the Catholic Catechism (CCC 1997): Grace is a participation in the life of God. Grace is a gift. The gift is relationship. When God gives Himself to us, it is a total gift. Put another way, He gave (gives) His all. We do not receive "more grace" from God by doing certain things. But grace involves a response from us, and we can GROW in grace by our ability, capacity, and willingness to respond to God's grace in us.
He used the example of the Blessed Mother. God initiated the relationship. He asked her to bear His son. She cooperated with His will and grew in grace. Responding to this almost necessarily leads to pain, because it is about relationship, and relationships can be difficult. Ask someone who is married. The dying to self and self-emptying love that it involves. But God makes those relationships possible.
Things at school at this time are just very difficult. The morale is low. Teachers and students alike are demeaned by the "powers that be". I have never seen anything like this. It causes people to either pray, drink, cry, or "live better" through medication.
The message for me was that this "thorn" may not be removed, but that God's grace IS enough for me. We are to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel and live lives built on faith, hope, and love. True peace - which we find ourselves constantly in search of - is the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. It comes from promoting kindness, justice, balance, harmony, and right relations among people.
The question for prayer this week: What can "Rejoice in the Lord always" mean for you in your everyday life with all its circumstances?