The compound interest of amazing grace

5 mins read
compound interest

Yes, yes, you’ve sung about it for years. (With gusto!) But have you ever considered what’s so amazing about grace?

Well, OK, maybe you have, but how about this particular property?

Grace is like money in the bank. Wait! That might be a poor comparison given savings account interest rates these days. Grace is like money in some fiduciary something or other that pays a hefty interest on the principal and on any added interest. And it’s amazing because God offers us compound interest.

Compound grace.

Not money making money. Grace making grace.

You may not realize or recognize that’s happening but — safe bet — you’ve benefitted from it.

That being said, it’s probably a good idea to cover some basics here on what grace is … and isn’t.

For example, a soul filled with grace is not a bottle of milk, pure and white and just lovely until we sin and then there are … . what? Little, dark, nasty balls of “ick” floating around in there like so many Cocoa Puffs.

Not that.

There are a lot of similes and metaphors used to describe and teach us about grace (and one’s soul), but they all seem to fall short in one way or another.

So what is grace, besides amazing?

For that, it’s best to turn to (or click to) the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches:

“Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

“Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an ‘adopted son’ he can henceforth call God ‘Father,’ in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

“This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature” (Catechism, Nos. 1996-98).

Well said, CCC. And kudos to its glossary, a terrific source for summing up that and more as it takes significant steps away from images of breakfast cereals.

It notes: grace is “the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life” (No. 1996).

That sounds like a good thing, as well as a good deal. What with the “free” and all.

It continues: “As sanctifying grace, God shares his divine life and friendship with us in a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that enables the soul to live with God, to act by his love.”

What! Shares his friendship? He truly wants the two of you to be BFFs. Literally, best friends for always and always.

But the glossary isn’t through yet. “As actual grace, God gives us the help to conform our will to his will. Sacramental grace and special graces (charisms, the grace of one’s state of life) are gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live our Christian vocation.” Not to be confused with a Christian vacation. Visiting Lourdes or walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain or some such.

And, as you probably know, “vocation” comes from the Latin word for “call.” So not only does he call you to a particular role (and duties) on earth, he also packs your bags for your life’s journey. Never forgetting any necessary item, though some may seem like a mystery to us until … “so that’s why he included that. … Nice move, God.”

Some amazing themes running through all that, eh? A basic one, simply put: God is cuckoo for … (no, not those puffs) … for you. And we’d be cuckoo not to take him up on his offer. These many gifts in this one gift. But how?

Three points to consider:

First, the dark side of this “compound interest” business. Sin builds on sin. Put another way, sin greases that slippery slope to more frequent and larger sins.

Deep in sin, it’s easier to sin.

Sinful practices make us more and more imperfect. Or maybe better put, farther and farther from perfect. That is, from God. From the divine and supreme Being who wants to be your good bud. Remember?

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And — flip side of the flip side — grace builds on grace. That “compound interest” makes it easier to choose to be good, which makes it easier still to be “gooder.” To be better at doing good and avoiding sin. Which, by the way, probably makes your guardian angel’s job a lot easier, too.

Come on, cut him/her some slack by giving that heaven-sent companion a break. At least the morning off, if not the whole day.

(Reminder: We’re all just a few moments, a few thoughts, a few choices from our next sin — if we decide to move in that direction.

Yet again.

Of course, St. Michael the Archangel can defend us in battle, but in a unique, God-given way, it’s that “personal” angel by our side in the daily skirmishes.

So to speak.

Second, through grace, by grace, we can catch a glimpse of what, of who, we were created to be. What, who, you were created to be. And recognizing that, knowing that, can make our lives so much easier, because we’re less likely to get off track. “To slip into the weeds.”

The Our Father’s “your will [for me!] be done on earth as it is in heaven” is clearer.

And third, it’s grace that hammers home the message, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (Jn 15:16). We can honestly say, believe and pray, “You are the boss of me. Thank heaven!”

Those three and so much more, not because of dollars on the dollars, but because of … well … you know.

Prayer by prayer. Reception of a sacrament by reception of a sacrament. Kind act, loving act, Christ-like act by … .

Grace amassing more grace.


A gift, a lifetime of gifts, leading to the absolute best retirement plan ever.

Forever and ever.


Bill Dodds writes from Washington.

God comes to you

“God walks into your soul with silent step. God comes to you, more than you go to Him. Every time a channel is made for Him, He pours into it His fresh gift of grace. And it is all done so undramatically — in prayer, in the sacraments, before the altar, in loving service of fellow man.

“Never will His coming be what you expect, and yet never will it disappoint. The more you respond to His gentle pressure, the greater will be your freedom.

“God never refuses grace to those who honestly ask for it. All He asks is that the vague thirst for the Infinite which has urged the soul on to seek its good in a succession of pleasures shall now be transformed into a thirst for God Himself. All we need do is to voice these two petitions: Dear Lord, illumine my intellect to see the Truth, and give me the strength to follow it. It is a prayer that is always answered. And it makes no difference whether the desire for God we voice has come from our disgusts, satieties, and despair or whether it is born of our love of the beautiful, the perfect. God is willing to take either our old bones or our young dreams, for He loves us, not because of the way we are, but because of what we can be through His grace.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, “The Greatest Commandment”

Bill Dodds

Bill Dodds writes from Washington.