Keeping the Faith: Grace fills empty spaces

Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 01:43 PM.

In her book Gravity and Grace, the late Simone Weil wrote, “Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it.” With those words she emphasizes spirituality, which for the most part has been only a minority report in the Christian church. It is the spirituality of weakness and emptiness.

It is no wonder that Jesus said, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.” He said this, not to glorify poverty, but to show that the only receptacle for God’s grace is a vacant human heart. We all must become poor, in one way or another, to receive what God has to give.

Somewhere along the line we simply lost our Way, that being the Way of Jesus. He always taught and modeled an inverted power, personal capability turned on its head. He never used coercion, strong-arm tactics, or dirty ladder climbing to the top. Rather, he descended to the bottom choosing the way of sacrifice, service, and humility.

Yet, we who are Christian often march forth to clutch for power and accomplishments as quickly as all others. Our good old Protestant work ethic (Catholics work just as hard, by the way) with a strong dose of entrepreneurship drives us to amass everything from fortunes and followers to perfect attendance pins and pats-on-the-back. We can become so full of ourselves that there is no room left for anything else, not even the grace God longs to give.

Personal achievement should be rightly celebrated, but it cannot be forgotten that egotism, pride, and ambition are the real enemies of the gospel. Why? Because when our hands, heads, and hearts are full, we are simply unable to accept what God offers. “Grace fills empty spaces!” Or in the words of Leo Tolstoy, “Even the strongest current of water cannot add a drop to a cup which is already full.”

I remember the telling of an old story about a scholar who climbed the mountain to meet the Zen Master face to face and to learn from him. This scholar had an extensive academic background. He had read and studied all the important texts and was a wealth of knowledge and experience.

After making all the customary bows and introductions, the two sat together and the scholar began talking about all he had done and all he had studied. He talked about all his endeavors and all he hoped to achieve in the future. The Master listened carefully and patiently and began to brew tea for the two to share.



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