Grace and Karma

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

Karma is a justice belief held mostly by Eastern religions that for every moral action we do there is a corresponding reaction.  If we show goodness, we reap goodness.  If we do evil, we reap evil.  Karma usually is not instant but nevertheless it will come.   It is supposed to teach us life’s lessons and to help us be better people.

Grace on the other hand is love and mercy given to us by God, something that we don’t deserve but God out of His goodness freely gives it.  Grace can also mean a divine influence to inspire us to do good or to practice the virtues and a kind of aid or strength to endure trial and resist temptations to commit sin.  Divine grace enlightens the mind and strengthens the will (our power to make choices) to do the right thing.  Grace can be availed from the sacraments such as Confession and Holy Eucharist.

Karma is attractive to our beliefs because it appeals to our sense of justice.  If we see or read in the news that a crime is committed, we feel that it should be punished right away.   However, we have to thank God that He practices grace on us and not karma because if he uses His justice on us through karma, no one would be alive because of the sins we regularly commit.

Grace works very differently.  In the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16) the landowner gave the same compensation to those who started working early and to those who were hired later.  The early birds of course complained, “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” The landowner replied, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”  This parable refers to those who are called late in their vocation (to priesthood, religious life and other states). A late vocation is when you receive grace to discover your vocation at the later stage in your life perhaps after being a boxer for many years and suddenly called to become a priest like Fr. Stuart Long of the famous true story movie “Father Stu”.  Others enter the religious life after working many years in the corporate world.  God gives the same reward of heaven or even a higher place in heaven even though they happen to be called late in their vocation. It’s not about how long you have been in your vocation but how generously you have responded to that vocation.  It’s quality over quantity.

The same unexpected logic happens with the Parable of the Talents (Lk. 19:11-27).  The one entrusted with one talent who got lazy and did not work on it to gain a profit was divested of his lone talent. The repossessed talent was then given to the one who already had ten.  The people witnessing the event objected to the apparent unfairness saying, “Sir, they said, ‘He already has ten!’ “But the nobleman replied “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.”  The law of grace is such that if we stubbornly don’t respond to the invitations of God to conversion, a time will come graces will not be given anymore because of our hardheadedness.  On the other hand, those who are constantly trying to make good use of the graces gifted to them will continue to receive more.  The rich become richer and the poor becomes poorer in the law of God’s grace.

Wretched people are supposed to deserve a wretched fate right away, but God’s grace and mercy gives a chance, a lot of chance, to mend our ways.  As Pope Francis would say, God never gets tired of forgiving but it’s us people who get tired of repenting.  “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Ps 86:15)