Extravagant Love, No Strings Attached

The retreat house, which I will leave this morning (after our final Mass and then breakfast), had plenty of books available for retreatants to borrow and, as I walked past a pile on the way to my room, I noticed a copy of What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey. Having read a book of his before and liked it, I picked up this one to take a look at in the evenings As it happens, it was a fitting choice for retreat reading.

As the title reveals, the book is about God’s grace. Yancey views grace as the most distinctive thing Christianity has to offer the world. As he observes

The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law–each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.

Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we can do to make God love us less. Expansive, unearned love. Extravagant love with no catch.

The words are easy to say. The trick is to internalize the message deep within our being. And that is one of the things retreat always does for me – brings me more in touch with the reality of that love. Helps me to realize ever more deeply that my very creation is an act of God’s love and that God can’t not love me. (Double negative intended.) It is a realization that is key if we are to be dispensers of God’s grace in the world.