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December 11, 2011

Question: Can ordinary folks experience a state of grace?

 “ Unasked, I have showered upon thee My grace. Unpetitioned, I have fulfilled thy wish. In spite of thy undeserving, I have singled thee out for My richest, My incalculable favors... O My servants! Be ablaze as the fire, that ye may burn away the veils of heedlessness and set aglow, through the quickening energies of the love of God, the chilled and wayward heart ”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 322).

By this definition, a state of grace is bestowed freely by God, without the recipient’s deserving the favour. Existence itself is the greatest form of grace, if one is grateful for the gift. If we begrudge being born, then life becomes an existential burden, and death becomes a welcome prospect. But if we are thankful for the opportunity of being born to know and to love God, to serve Him by serving humanity,  and by fulfilling His purpose in our lives, then we are living in a state of grace. This applies to ordinary and extraordinary folks alike.

 “God is no respecter of persons.” So declared St. Peter (Acts 10: 34) and St. Paul (Rom. 2:11). Regarding obedience to the divine laws and standards, the world’s privileged few do not enjoy any special status or exemptions. The same principle may be said of God’s special favours and graces. They apply to all alike. I suspect that “ordinary folks” are the recipients of a state of grace more than we suspect. The challenge is to become aware of these favours and graces. 

If the question implies that an individual first must needs be holy in order to qualify to receive a state of grace, I would answer a cautious no. Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration at the head of this answer precludes that notion. This does not mean, however, that we should take God’s bounties for granted.  God’s good graces-- faith, knowledge, love, justice, mercy, etc.--require positive demonstration in social action: “I bear witness, O friends! that the favor is complete, the argument fulfilled, the proof manifest and the evidence established. Let it now be seen what your endeavors in the path of detachment will reveal” (Bahá’u’lláh,  The Hidden Words, Persian,  #82).
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen December 11, 2011
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