Second Reading: Romans 8:28-30

Our Place In God’s Plans

Why did Christ come to earth and die? How does his appearance and death speak to our situation today?

Popular Translation

28 We know that everything works together for the good of those who love God. God called these people for his own reasons. 29 We also know that God planned and worked to form these people to look like his own Son, who would be the first person of all God’s people to rise from the dead. 30 God called those people who he planned to have with him. And he accepted the people he called. God gives glory to those he accepts.

Literal Translation

28 We know that, to the (ones) loving God, all (things) work together for the good, to the (ones) being called according to (his) purpose, 29 that whom he foreknew, also preordained, (as) conformed to the image of his SON, for HIM to be the first born of many brothers. 30 These whom he preordained he also called; these whom he called he also made righteous; these whom he made righteous he also glorified.

8:28-29 “We know that...that...” Paul presented two items of insight about Christians. First, everything that happens to Christians ultimately worked for the good. Second, God planned (foreknew) and acted (preordained) to form a community in the image of his Son. Both insights grew directly from that activity of God’s will. The end result of God’s providence, Paul asserted, would be the final resurrection, just as Christ rose from the dead.

Why did Christ come to earth as a human being? Why did he have to die? These basic questions form the core of faith. The answers, surprisingly, are self-centered. God sent his Son into the world, to die and rise, for us! According to Paul, God foresaw and planned for the moment his Church became a reality. As Church, we are the ones God chose according to his own purposes. We are the ones who would be formed into the image of his Son and would receive glory. We are the ones who will ultimately see the good of God’s providence, even though our lives have struggles. Christ came for us! This shows the immense depth and power of God’s love.

Although these verses refer to us the saved, we should not presume a hard and fast definition of “predestination” from Paul’s words. God wills all people to follow his Son, but does not force such. God does not pick and choose his people, then condemn the rest; the invitation is universal. But the invitation can be turned down. That is the result of free will. We have the power to tell God “NO!”

Unlike many Protestant congregations, the Catholic Church has never defined the relationship between free will and grace. Is grace so irresistible it can overpower free will? Common sense says “no.” Following this insight, many Catholic theologians hold to the dictum: “Grace builds on nature.” God made us incomplete; his grace completes us. Misuse of free will only denies that fulfillment; it does not warp us to the point we cannot accept grace.

Made whole by grace, we can do God’s will and realize his goodness. We can understand the scope of his plans. We know he called us into a people he envisioned from the beginning. And we can see the end game of his providence. We realize all this because of what Christ did for us.

How can the example of Christ show you God’s plans for your life? How does Christ inspire and empower you to do God’s will?