The Scriptorium

Grace Payback

Patrick's Confession (2)

Then the Lord made me aware of my unbelief, so that - however late - I might recollect my offences and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God. It was He Who took heed of my insignificance. Who pitied my youth and ignorance, Who watched over me before I knew Him and before I came to understand the difference between good and evil, and Who protected and comforted me as a father would his son. That is why I cannot remain silent (further, it would be inappropriate to do so) about the great favours and graces which the Lord deigned to grant me in the land of my captivity. For the way to make repayment for that revelation of God through capture and enslavement is to declare and make known His wonders to every race under heaven.

(Translation, Liam de Paor, Saint Patrick's World)

Patrick may have been a rustic, and unschooled. But he knew grace when he experienced it.

There can be no misunderstanding Patrick's view of salvation. It comes as an act of divine grace to undeserving sinners. Indeed, salvation is merely the culminative act of many years of gracious and caring oversight and provision on God's part. When God makes His saving grace known to us, the proper response is to acknowledge ("recollect") our sins and turn with all our hearts to Him. Only after God has made His grace known to us - "that revelation", as Patrick puts it - can we see in retrospect just how completely good and loving He has been to us all our lives.

What to do in response? Patrick understood: Make this Good News known as far and wide as possible!

Patrick made "repayment" for God's grace, not "payment." We do not earn salvation; it comes as a gift. But once we know the grace of God the only "appropriate" response is so to live and serve that others may come to know the Lord as well.

We catch the first fleeting glimpse of Patrick's vision: "to declare and make known His wonders to every race under heaven." Patrick understood that the grace he had received deserved an effort without bounds or limits on his part. Would he reach every race under heaven? Of course not.

But that he lived as though that were, indeed, his mission, none can doubt.

T. M. Moore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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