Opening ourselves to God’s graces

Recently I had the privilege of giving the invocation at UMass Dartmouth’s College Now/Start Banquet.  College Now is an alternative admissions program at the university. There are strict guidelines for participation, but basically it is for those who had thought they were not college material while they were in high school and were missing important credentials to get into college as a result of life situations. 

During their first semester they take some extra courses through the College Now Office to learn how to be successful in college. In addition they meet with an advisor on a regular basis. After the first semester if they attain a certain GPA they are accepted fully into the university.  The banquet was a celebration for those students who had met their goals the first semester.

The stories of each of these students is unique and often quite moving. The evening includes an address by an alumni of the university who had participated in the program.

This year’s alumni speaker had continued his education and eventually earned his Ph.D. and now teaches at the university. I was very proud to be associated with UMass Dartmouth when I meet students who have accomplished so much despite the challenges they face and very proud of these students themselves. 

The timing of the event so close to Ash Wednesday has created some interesting reflections as we begin Lent. Lent is very similar to the idea behind this program. We are given an opportunity by the Lord to overcome the challenges we face in life — those we have created for ourselves and those we find ourselves in through no fault of our own. He gives us the graces we need and the resources and supports through His Church to succeed in becoming the people He has created us to be, not those society thinks we are. 

There will be times along this journey that we will stumble. We will fall to temptation. Lent reminds us that we have the opportunity for a second chance (or a third, or a fourth, etc). The God Who created us and knows us better than ourselves, knows what we are capable of and who we truly are. He believes and loves each of us and will do everything He can to help us to live our potential and our true identity. He will challenge us in this process, but will also pick us up when we have fallen and help us rise to the challenge.

It is up to us to make use of the opportunity before us, to decide whether we will cooperate with God’s plan and graces. It requires commitment, hard work and leadership on our part. Yet when we do open ourselves up to His graces and live in righteousness with Him, what we can achieve is beyond what we currently believe.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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