My first personal experience with God’s grace was during the Ash Wednesday Mass in 1998. It was my first and a very important step in my spiritual journey. At that time I was not yet baptized. My family and I lived in Los Angeles, and I was attending the RCIA (Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults) program at St. John Fisher Church in Palos Verdes. According to the RCIA program leaders, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent and thus is a very important day in the church calendar. On Ash Wednesday, there would be a special ceremony where both those who are baptized and those not yet baptized can receive God’s blessing. Therefore, all of us in the program decided to meet and attend the Ash Wednesday Mass together at 7pm that evening.
Early in the morning on Ash Wednesday, I encountered an enormous problem at work. One of our key customers in Phoenix expressed extreme dissatisfaction with our company’s products and services. Since I was in charge of the professional services group responsible for the installation of the products for the region, the customer sent me an email early in the morning, pressuring me to fix the problems immediately, demanding that my manager and I meet with them the next day in person, and threatening that they will “take serious action” quickly. I was very nervous, worried, and unhappy for the whole day because of this. I passed the bad news to my manager who was based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we decided to meet the next morning at a hotel restaurant in Phoenix for breakfast before meeting the customer.
I reluctantly called the travel agency and reserved a ticket on the last flight of the day from Los Angeles to Phoenix, which I planned to catch after attending Ash Wednesday Mass. For the remainder of the day, I felt very nervous and worried that this customer would take legal action against us. I was also very afraid that my manager would lose confidence in me because of this situation. I was unable to remain calm and visibly upset.
When I got home in the evening, I was still feeling very stressed. In my heart, I was uncertain about the future of my career. During dinner, I had a long face and did not want to talk about it with my family. However, the tension was felt around the dinner table.
After dinner, I took my wife, two kids, and my heavy mental burden to the church. Very interestingly, as we were just walking into the church, a peaceful feeling began to calm me. Church friends gave us warm greetings, and told us they were very happy to see us. My long face began to loosen and turned to a very slight smile.
I put my worries aside and intently followed the Mass. The scripture on that day said:
“In an acceptable time I heard you, and
on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation. [2 Corinthians 6:2]
The priest’s homily made me appreciate the depth of God’s grace, and realized the difficulties at my job are so insignificant in comparison. I suddenly felt that “now is the time God had heard and accepted me, and now is the time he will save me.” I also realized that no matter what happens tomorrow in Phoenix, God will always love me and I need not to worry. All of the stress, fear, and unhappiness that I had felt during the day suddenly disappeared. For reasons I could not explain, I felt a strong sense of peace, and believed that God will provide and take care of us.
During Mass, I humbly received the marking of ashes on my forehead. At that time, I did not really understand the meaning of the ash on the forehead; I only knew that this was a blessing that everyone can receive, even those not yet baptized. Since we had never attended Ash Wednesday Mass before, and we had never seen people with ashes marked on their foreheads, it was an interesting experience to us. My family looked at each other’s marks and thought everyone looked cute. We smiled and our mood instantly improved.
After Mass, I took everyone home and immediately went to the airport. Surprisingly, I saw many people at the airport with the mark of ashes on their foreheads. I came to realize the great reach of God’s grace, extending way beyond my little world.
Usually, every night after work, I would prepare and work on my tasks for the next day for another couple of hours regardless of how late it was. However, on that night, when I arrived at the hotel, I did not even worry about my work for the next day. I just put down my luggage, went straight to bed, and fell asleep quickly and peacefully.
The next morning, I calmly had breakfast with my manager and went to visit our customer. Amazingly, when we arrived at our customer’s office, we found out that their difficult problems were all miraculously resolved! Their attitude turned completely around and they were very happy with our products and appreciated our services. I could never imagine that they not only didn’t give me a difficult time in front of my manager, but instead gave my team and I many praises. They even signed more orders! Praise the Lord! Alleluia!
The Bible says, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him” [1 Cor 2:9]. Our loving God accepted me, took away my fears and gave me peace so I can rest in Him. He is also a capable and loving God. He miraculously resolved my difficulties and rescued me from my problems. Whom else can be so loving and powerful? Praise and thanks to our living God, for he is the only one who can touch our hearts and make our lives better by directly changing our environment! Alleluia!
Dear God, I thank you for accepting me when I did not even know you. You helped me, and saved me. For your grace and your love I thank and praise you. May your name be glorified forever! I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.