The Grace Of Final Repentance
My post about the thankfully now deceased Cardinal Tettamanzi prompted a nice comment about the fact that those who have lived their lives in rebellion to God will not find it easy to manage that perfect contrition that would save them from hell when they die. This is all true but, lest the wrong interpretation is given, I would like to see things from the other side: God's grace.
We, on our own, can do absolutely nothing, much less save ourselves. God's will is the only variable in this. We are wretched sinners who, on our own, could never achieve anything at all.
All we do that is good is because of God's grace, given gratuitously to us without us meriting it. Whilst the common parlance states that one merits salvation, the matter is more complex: God allows him the immense grace of final repentance, and he merely collaborates with it; and he does so only and exclusively because God gave him the grace (that is: the unmerited gift) to do so.
This is an aspect of Catholic teaching that is, if you ask me, too often neglected, engendering in some the idea that, in the end, my salvation is in my hands. No it isn't. To believe in this is, in fact, a heresy.
Without God we are perfect nothings who can do perfectly nothing. All we do that is good is due to God giving us the unmerited grace to act in the right way.
This helps us to put episodes like the sudden death of Cardinal Meisner, or the recent demise of “communion for adulterers” Tettamanzi, in the right perspective.
Meisner might have been reading the breviary when he died, but then again Luther might (hypothetically) have been reading the Bible. The question about their salvation is: after they have gravely failed against Our Lord (in different ways) all their lives, how likely it is that Our Lord would give them this gratuitous, infinitely important gift of the grace of final repentance?
Well the simple answer to that is that – whilst God only judges and He has perfect plans we don't comprehend – it's just pretty unlikely. Again: a heretic or traitor does not save himself by doing things that sound right: if you are in mortal sin, nothing you do is conducive to salvation. If you are in mortal sin you can recite thirty rosaries a day, you are still in mortal sin. A heretic or traitor only saves himself if Our Lord decides to give him this great, unmerited gift, moving him to collaborate with Him and behave in a way that – leading him to the state of grace again – is conducive to salvation.
The grace of final repentance is the grace of all graces. With it, everything is achieved. Without it, everything is lost. None of us, nobody, and be him Padre Pio, can merit salvation out of his own actions and volition. It is always God's grace that allowed those actions in the first place, and gently pushed the soul to perform them.
Therefore, when some lifelong Quisling or outright rascal dies, the thought of how likely it is that he would have received this immense gift is more pertinent than the question about what the man was doing when he kicked the bucket.
Yes. This is exactly the way it should be.