The Community Dimension of Grace
This dissertation explains how divine grace, that is, God's self-communication to humanity, is a communitarian reality specifically in its participative, dialogical, and prophetic core as well as its manifestations, characteristics, and consequences. It draws from two main sources: Karl Rahner's understanding of grace and the pastoral statements and reflections of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference (FABC) from 1974 to 2010. Religious and cultural pluralism and the abiding poverty in Asian communities are the realities that frame the discussion both of the FABC documents and the main theme of this dissertation. The FABC believes that in order to respond to God's call for the Asian Church to be "a communion of communities", the Asian Church--hierarchy, religious, and laity--must reckon with these permanent realities through which God reveals divine self and will. They must therefore figure significantly upon the Church's ways of evangelizing, theologizing, and living in community. For this reason, the FABC understands being a communion of communities as God's call for the Church to be more participative, dialogical, and prophetic in evangelization and attitude with and towards other communities. The life-giving relationship in the experience of grace does not remain restricted to God and individual persons. God gives Godself gratuitously not simply to individuals but to the whole human community. Divine self-giving creates loving, self-donating persons in communion with Godself and one another. The community is therefore a privileged place where one experiences grace especially in the shared effort to respond to God's unifying presence and call to greater participation, dialogue, and prophetic action with other communities. As the ground of grace, God's presence and activity in the world is always participative in human realities, dialogical with persons, and prophetic in its thrust for the poor. The response to this grace also takes on communitarian characteristics, that is, participative, dialogical, and prophetic attributes. Self-consciousness and self-forgetfulness form a significant dialectic that takes place in the experience of grace--both on the side of the Giver and of the recipients of the gift. A community that enjoys God's grace is constantly aware of the fact that the grace is due to God's gratuitous, selfless love for all. At the same time, grace empowers a community towards self-forgetfulness as God's self-communication always calls forth shared self-denial and servanthood as witnessed to by the total self-outpouring of Christ to the world. The grace of God therefore becomes clearly manifest in a community whose members willingly participate in fostering well-being, when they strive for deeper harmony through constant and open dialogue, and most of all, when they take care of their poor sisters and brothers.