How can I thank you for this?


Beaming with gratitude and hope.

Those words aptly describe the face of my student after I had granted him an extension on his assignments. He hadn’t asked for one, but I knew that he was struggling with issues outside the class that were impacting his performance in class. I knew he had the ability to do the work. I knew he had the desire to get it done, but he lacked the time, and concern was etched on his face.

I wanted to see him succeed, and there were at least two things I could do as his teacher that could help him to do so. One was to grant him an extension to get the work done. The other was to link him up with someone that could help and guide him in the process.

He blinked a couple times. He said, “What can I do? How can I thank you for making this exception?”

I replied, “You can show your gratitude by accepting this gift and by making the most of it.” He was relieved and incredulous at the same time. He knew that I didn’t have to do this for him. He knew that he hadn’t earned it, that what was happening was simply a free act of kindness for his benefit.

We Call That Grace.

“What?” You ask.

We call that Grace.

Grace is:

  • An act motivated by love in which
  • One gives to another
  • That which is unearned and cannot be repaid
  • For the benefit of the other.

I graced this student. And just as I had done for him, so God does for me, for us, every moment of every day. We can see it – if we are paying attention. He offers us three kinds of grace so that we can have yet a fourth.

But, I thought…

Grace is just a prayer before meals?

No, it isn’t just prayer of thanksgiving for God’s grace.

Grace is a girl’s name?

No, it isn’t merely a name that is to signify kindness.

Grace is God’s goodness or favor towards us that we cannot earn?

Well, yes and no…

It is true that Grace is God’s goodness towards us that we could never earn nor hope to repay. That having been said, I have learned that God acts in many ways and that it helps me to see God’s grace as active in three particular ways: Actual Grace, Sanctifying Grace, and Sacramental Grace. It is our hope that through these graces we may live with God in a state of original grace. This series of posts will focus on each grace in its turn.

Regardless of which grace I speak, it is in experiencing God’s grace that I encounter Him.

Actual Grace

All grace is supernatural since its origin is God. However, there are some graces that we receive that reveal God’s presence to us simply through nature or natural occurrence. Perhaps a good way of understanding actual grace is to see it as God acting directly in the events of our lives. My encounter with God in actual grace is seen as his calling out to me, letting me know He’s here for me.  I see this grace in things like:

  • Strength in difficult situations
  • The comfort of a friend’s presence
  • The beauty of nature around us
  • Health or healing
  • A sudden inspiration to solve a problem

These reflections of God’s loving kindness call my attention to him. At those times, I may have an “Aha moment” or a moment of clarity when I can see His hand in it. That “Aha” is my acknowledgement of his presence.   But God’s offering me that grace and my recognizing it does not mean that I have it yet. Like any gift that is offered, it isn’t mine until I accept the gift. Accepting the gift of grace is my response, as is my gratitude.

 But…if all I do is accept that grace and say, “thank-you” for it, of what good is it? A gift that is given isn’t meant to be put away and hidden is it? When I was a child, I played with every gift I received and wore every piece of clothing.

Why is it that as an adult I became fearful of breaking, wearing out, or using up what had been given? I realized that hoarding that gift is actually an ungrateful act. Whatever was given to me was given because the person giving it thought I would enjoy it, especially in the company of others.

So it is with God’s grace. While it is given to help me, it also serves to draw me to God. And if I’m truly grateful to God for such a gift, then what I could not earn and what I could never hope to pay back, God calls me to pay forward to build his people and his kingdom.


God’s Actual Graces in Your Life

How has God graced you this week?

  1. Is there food on your table?
  2. Is there a roof over your head?
  3. Do you have a couple dollars in your pocket?
  4. Did you enjoy the company of friends or family?
  5. Did you get a “Good job” or “Way to go” at work?
  6. Did someone tell you they believe in you?
  7. Did someone tell you they were thinking about you or praying for you?
  8. Did you find inspiration in something or someone that helped you resolve a crisis or solve a problem?
  9. Did a hurt/strained/broken relationship experience some healing?
  10. Search your day, search your week. What’s not on my list that should be?

You can’t pay God back for what he’s given.

But, do you know someone who’s hungering or thirsting for:

  1. Basic corporal/bodily needs
  2. Enough money to take care of their family
  3. Company
  4. Recognition
  5. Compassion
  6. Prayer/Intercession
  7. A hint/suggestion/advice on an issue you know something about
  8. Forgiveness


Here’s the trick, by responding to God’s grace, by living the over flowing cup that I am, I become the means by which others encounter God in their lives. I challenge you today to pay it forward.

Be the encounter with God this week for someone.

Looking ahead to next week:

Actual Graces meet the needs of the day. As I respond to actual graces, they stir in me a greater hunger and thirst for God. That thirst is the root of yet another grace that I will write about next week – Sanctifying Grace.

Thank you for reading and praying with me.  If this touched you, please share with your friends. Kindly take a moment to leave a comment!

Published by

Larry Duffany

Larry is first and foremost a husband and father, married for more than 20 years to his wife Janet, they make their home with their two children, Hannah and Gabriel in Thomaston, CT. A career Catholic school educator, Larry has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He currently serves as the Chair of the Religion Department at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Connecticut. In addition to his full-time teaching, Larry also facilitates adult faith formation courses for the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) at the University of Dayton and is an adjunct instructor at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut. In his spare time, Larry volunteers with Thomaston Volunteer Ambulance Corps where he is an EMT and a member of their training team.

8 thoughts on “How can I thank you for this?”

  1. Beautiful. Those are the words that I needed to read today. Sometimes we forget little things in our lives that are important, maybe we’re under stress, or busy or just not paying attention. God is with us all the time. Thanks for sharing this

    1. Thank you Maria! Yes, God is always with us. We often tend to look for Him in the big things. But I’ve found that seeing his presence in the little things helps me appreciate his presence at all times.

  2. As I thought about actual grace and looked at your list, what came to mind was my recent studies on mindfulness – learning how to live in the present moment. And then the book “Practicing the Presence of God” flashed before me. It was God’s gentle reminder that he is always there.

    1. Pam it is very much about mindfulness, being aware of God’s abiding presence. He’s always present to us, the question is whether we are present or attending to God.

  3. “If I am truly grateful to God …..God calls me to pay it forward to build his kingdom and his people.
    This is the essence of my life and so many I know.
    God asks us to love our neighbor. Not like but love ….
    LoveGod. Love your neighbor.
    Thanks Larry!!!!!

    1. Thanks MB!

      It is so important for us to see, too, that love here is what we do, not how we feel. It is seeking the good of the other, especially when we may not feel like it!

I would love to hear your thoughts too! Please drop a line or two for me!