HUMAN ACTS ARE THE STEPS which lead man to the vision of God. If this is true, it might seem strange, even contradictory, to say that ultimately happiness is a gift from God. Yet we must say that happiness is a gift given to men by God. We must say that man chooses happiness freely by his human acts and yet we must also say that happiness is a gift of God.

THE CLUE TO THIS MYSTERY lies in the nature of man's true happiness. You will remember that we said in the very beginning that man's true happiness consists in the vision of God. But the vision of God is a goal beyond the natural power of any creature. No natural act of man, or series of natural human actions, can enable man to see God. To see God as He is in Himself, to love God as He loves Himself---these are actions that are proper to God alone. The all-perfect God dwells in light inaccessible and no human mind is naturally capable of seeing God. As the stone cannot fly by its own power, as a horse cannot read this book by its own power, so man cannot see God by his own natural power.
IF MAN IS TO SEE GOD, he must be raised to a level of existence and action that is superhuman, that is Divine. This is precisely what God has done for man. Through the gift of grace God gives to man the power to see God. Through grace God makes it possible for human acts to lead to the vision of Himself.

MAN NEEDS THE GRACE OF GOD if he is to find true happiness. Man achieves happiness through the proper use of reason and will. But these powers of man must be fortified by grace before their action can lead man to the desired goal. It is true that the natural use of human reason can put man in possession of the truths of the natural order. Human reason can discover the existence of God, the immortality of man's soul, the precepts of the Natural Law, and so on. But human reason alone cannot discover the truths of the supernatural order, such truths as the existence of the Trinity in God, the Incarnation, the Redemption of men by Christ, man's actual call to the vision of God, the grace which makes the vision possible, and so on. To learn these truths the mind of man needs the light of faith which is called the light of grace.

IN ADDITION MAN'S WILL needs God's grace if it is to find God in the vision of God. The human will is capable of performing naturally good acts. But the vision of God can only be attained through supernatural acts. Hence the will needs to be aided by God's supernatural grace to do and wish supernatural good. If man were now existing in a state of perfect human nature, he would still need grace to act supernaturally. Actually, as we have already seen, human nature is now wounded or corrupted by Original Sin. The human will must be healed by grace in order to perform supernatural acts.

AGAIN, IF MAN WERE IN THE STATE of perfect nature in which Adam existed before his fall into sin, he could keep all the commandments of God and the Natural Law. But man is now corrupted in his nature because of Original Sin. Consequently it is impossible for man to keep all the commandments for a whole lifetime without the healing effect of God's grace. Moreover, to keep the commandments perfectly in the way that leads to the vision of God, man needs the elevating power of grace. For no purely human act is capable of gaining the vision of God. Grace is necessary to elevate the character of human acts and make them proportionate to the goal of the vision of God. It is only through the power of grace that man can merit the vision of God.

IF MAN IS TO ACT supernaturally always, and ultimately to enjoy the vision of God supernaturally, he needs an habitual gift of grace. Besides this the human will must be prepared for the gift of habitual grace. Through habitual grace man's will is turned to God. But it must be prepared for this turning to God. The sinner, for example, must turn from his sin to God. He must repent. But to do this he must be moved to repentance by God. God moves his will inwardly and so prepares it for the reception of habitual grace.

MAN NEEDS GRACE even to avoid sin. For the sense appetite of man is not entirely subject to reason and will, and reason itself is not entirely subject to God. Even though man is capable of good, the lack of due order in his reason and sense appetite will lead him into sin unless he is aided by the grace of God. It follows too that man requires the help of God's grace to persevere in the state of grace. For he needs the Divine assistance to guard him against the attacks of passion.

THE NECESSITY OF GOD'S GRACE will not seem so surprising if we remember that God's assistance is needed by man even for natural human life and action. The human will needs divine aid even for its natural action. No creature, as we have seen, can move itself to its proper action without assistance from God. The need for this Divine aid exists also in the order of supernatural life and action. In this order the goal of action is beyond the capacity of any natural  action. Man's nature must be elevated by God to an order of existence and action which is equal to the goal of the vision of God. It is habitual grace which thus elevates man permanently to the order of supernatural action. But just as human reason and will need to be moved by God to their natural acts of understanding and love, so in the order of habitual grace, the sanctified reason and will of man must also be moved by God to their supernatural acts of understanding and love. It is actual grace---a gift of God---by which God moves man to supernatural acts. And just as the will functions freely in the natural order even under the divine motion moving it to act, so too the will functions freely under the Divine motion of grace in the supernatural order. In this way happiness, which is the goal of grace, results from the combination of God's gift and man's free choice. Man achieves happiness through his own acts, but his acts are equal to the task through the gift of God's grace.

WHAT IS GRACE IN ITSELF? As we said above, man needs God's assistance in two ways. In the natural order God gives man a rational nature which is the source of the acts of reason and will. Besides this permanent rational nature God also moves human reason and will to their acts of understanding and love. In the supernatural order God provides similarly for man. He gives man habitual grace, which is like a permanent supernature with permanent powers of supernatural knowledge and love. But these powers must be moved by God to supernatural actions. This latter Divine motion is actual grace, a temporary divine motion in the soul of man.

HABITUAL GRACE MUST BE A QUALITY infused in the soul of man by God. It enables man to act in the order of supernatural knowledge and love. Since these are spiritual actions, grace, the source of these actions must be in the soul rather than in the body of man. Moreover, since grace transforms man's soul by making it capable of sharing in the life of God, it is a quality infused in the soul. It is a quality because it gives the soul a special form or manner of existing and acting. It gives the soul a participation in the very life of God.

SINCE IT IS A SHARING in the Divine life or nature, it is infused in the soul rather than into the powers of the soul. Nature always precedes power. It is because man has a human nature that he has the powers of reason and will. So also it is because man has habitual grace that he is also endowed with the powers of supernatural knowledge and love.

SINCE GRACE IS A PARTICIPATION in the Divine nature, it is obvious that only God can give grace to man. No one but God is the Divine nature. Hence no one but God can communicate to man a share in this nature. God may use the human nature of Christ, or the Sacraments to impart grace to men. They are however only the instruments by which God, the principal Agent, gives to men a share in His Own life.

IT IS TRUE that men prepare themselves for the reception of habitual grace by turning freely to God.

In this way men can be said to be disposing causes of grace. They put their own souls in proper order for the reception of grace. But even this turning of man's will to God is due to God's grace. Therefore, from beginning to end, grace is a gift of God.

IN SO FAR AS HABITUAL GRACE joins man to God supernaturally, it is equal in all men. For wherever grace exists, there man is united to God. But this union can admit of degrees inasmuch as one man may be more perfectly enlightened by grace than another. The man who prepares himself for grace by a more perfect repentance for sin or by a more perfect love of God, will receive more habitual grace. Even in this case, though, the more perfect preparation for grace will be due to God's action in the soul of man. Consequently the different degrees of grace in men's souls are ultimately traceable to God.

SO PERFECT A GIFT AS GRACE is clearly the effect of God's love for men. Since men cannot know naturally the supernatural effects of God's love, they cannot be certain that God has given them habitual grace. While God has revealed His willingness to grant His grace to all men, He has not revealed whether or not He has given it to this or that particular man. Consequently no man can believe with certitude that he possesses God's grace, unless God should make a special revelation of that fact to the man in question. But if men do what they can to attain and to retain God's grace, that is, if they receive the Sacraments which God has instituted to give grace to men and if they strive to keep the commandments, then they can make a reasonable conjecture that God has given them grace.

IF WE RECALL THE FACT that men come into this world stained and corrupted by Original Sin, and if we recall the fact that men commit personal mortal sins, then the effect of grace in the souls of men is nothing short of marvelous. If grace unites men to God by giving them a share in God's own life, then grace and serious sin are opposed to one another. A man cannot be united to God in grace and separated from Him by sin. Where grace is, serious sin cannot exist. When grace enters a soul, then sin must depart from that soul.

HABITUAL GRACE THEN EXPELS SIN from the soul of man. Since sin means that man's will is not turned to God, the infusion of grace means that man's will is turned back to God. But man cannot turn back to God without turning away from---or detesting---his sin. The infusion of grace means then that man turns away from his sin. But when man turns away from sin and back to God, his sin is forgiven or remitted by God. The infusion of grace thus remits man's sin and makes man once again the friend of God, the child of God and the heir of Heaven.

GRACE MAKES MAN A FRIEND OF GOD because it is the effect of God's love or friendship for man and because it enables man to love God through supernatural charity. Furthermore, because it gives man a share in the Divine life, it establishes a community of interests between man and God.

GRACE MAKES MAN AN ADOPTED CHILD OF GOD because it gives man a share in the Divine life and happiness. As parents give natural life to their children in the world of nature, so God gives men supernatural life through grace in the world of the divine nature.

GRACE MAKES MAN AN HEIR OF HEAVEN, because grace enables man to attain to the vision of God. Grace is the seed from which the glory of the vision of God will flower. Just as the accident of natural birth gives a child the right to inherit the property or wealth of his parents, so also the accident of grace, which makes man the child of God, gives man a right to share in the wealth of happiness which is God's.

THESE WONDERFUL EFFECTS OF GRACE show us the splendor of God's gift to us. In one sense the creation of the world is a greater work of God than the infusion of grace in the souls of men. For creation means that God makes something from nothing. But from the point of view of the excellence of the thing that is made, grace is superior to creation. For the work of creation brings into being a changeable creature. But grace results ultimately in the eternal vision of God. The gift of the vision of God---which is called the gift of glory---which is given to the saints in Heaven, is a greater thing in itself than the gift of grace to sinful men. But glory is due, in God's plan, to those who die in grace. On the other hand, grace, which leads men to glory, is far beyond the unworthiness of sinful man. Grace is a great mystery of God's love for men.
GRACE LEADS TO GLORY. It leads ultimately to the vision of God. In God's plan grace enables man to merit the vision of God. The vision is given as a reward for grace.

MERIT OR REWARD IS THE PRICE given in return for a work that is done voluntarily. Strictly speaking, the price paid for a voluntary work or service is a matter of justice. Strict justice regulates the relations between persons who are equal to one another. But we also speak of justice in a relative sense of the term, as regulating the relations between father and child, or between a man and his servants. It is clear that God and man are not equals. There can be no question of absolute justice between God and man. But God can make the meriting of the vision of Himself a matter of justice in the relative sense.

THIS IS PRECISELY what God has done in the order of grace. There is no work of man, however great or noble, which would give man a right in justice to the vision of God. But God has made grace the meritorious principle or source of eternal life. In God's plan human acts performed with and through habitual grace will merit the vision of God for men. As Christ tells us, grace is a "fountain of water, springing up to eternal life." (John, IV, 14.) Grace is the power of God in us moving us to the vision of God.

HUMAN ACTS PERFORMED IN GRACE are meritorious for two reasons. First, they have the character of merit because God Himself directs them to a supernatural good, the vision of Himself. And secondly, they are meritorious because they are voluntary or free on man's part. Because they are free they proceed from man's will in so far as it loves God supernaturally in charity. Merit then depends on charity. The acts of all the other virtues are meritorious in so far as they are directed by charity to the love of God.

BUT EVEN THOUGH MEN can freely merit eternal life, the vision of God is a free gift from God to man. This is so because the first infusion of habitual grace---which is the source of all merit---is due to God's generosity. No ordinary man can merit this grace for himself in justice. Only Christ, the God-man, had the power to merit grace in justice for other men. In God's plan Christ is the new Adam, that is, He is the spiritual Head of the human race. He can merit from God the grace needed for man's happiness. Other men cannot do this. But, if they are in the state of grace, they are the friends of God. Since they are God's friends, it is true to say that if they perform good works for the salvation of other men, it is fitting that God will grant their desires.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTICE that merit is possible only to those who are in the state of grace. Only those in the state of grace are God's friends and children. Only they have any right to inherit the vision of God. Hence the man who has not yet received habitual grace, or the man who has lost it through mortal sin cannot merit it for himself. Only the Divine generosity can give it or restore it to man. The wise man is careful not to lose the grace of God once he has received it.

FAR FROM RISKING THE LOSS of grace through sin, the wise man seeks to increase his grace and charity through good works. Through grace God moves man to eternal life in the vision of God. But this movement or preparation for the vision of God is progressive. As man makes use of the grace already given him, his good use of grace brings further supernatural illumination of his mind and strength to his love of God. By his good works man thus merits an increase of grace and charity in his soul.

SINCE MAN'S FREE WILL remains flexible in this life toward good and evil, it is always possible for man to lose grace through sin. If man dies while in the state of grace, he merits the vision of God as his reward. But man himself cannot provide infallibly for the happy conjunction of death and the state of grace in his soul. Only God, the Master of life and death, can give to man the privilege of dying while in the state of grace. This shows that grace is a precious gift which man must guard carefully. He must persevere in the performance of good works, in the avoidance of sin, in prayers for the great gift of final perseverance in grace until death. If he perseveres in the life of grace, he will receive the reward of grace, the vision of God.
EVERYTHING THAT WE KNOW about grace seems mysterious to us. This is not surprising. The mystery of grace is one of the mysteries which God has revealed to us. We may not understand it completely, but we have God's word for its truth.

BEsIDES, THE MYSTERY OF GRACE is part of the greater mystery of God's love for us. Love is always mysterious. The love of men for one another is not completely understood by men. Is it any wonder then that the love of God for men is past all understanding? Men love one another because they find good in one another. But God does not love men because He discovers good in them. Rather God's love for us makes us good. Love is caused in men by the good they find in others. But God's love for men is the cause of all the good which is in men.

SINCE GRACE IS THE EFFECT of God's love in men, and since it is a share in God's Own Divine nature, we cannot find any exact parallel to grace in the world of nature. But it might be of some help, by way of conclusion to this chapter, to try to compare the mystery of grace to something within the bounds of human experience.

CHRIST HAS LIKENED the Kingdom of Heaven to an earthly kingdom. Let us imagine a king who had no heir to his kingdom. For some reason unknown to us he chooses a poor, uneducated orphan boy to be his heir. He adopts the boy as his son. Evidently the boy is not fit for the life or the functions of a king. But the king trains him. Patiently he imparts to the boy the knowledge and the virtue he needs to inherit the king dom. When he dies, the boy inherits the kingdom. Because of the training the king gave him he rules the kingdom wisely and well.

Now THIS STORY of the king's love for an orphan is partly like and partly unlike the story of God's! love for us as it is made known to us in the mystery of grace. The king knew he would have to die and surrender his throne to some one else. God is eternal. He can never die. But He has determined to share the wealth of His Kingdom with men, Like the king He adopts men as His children in grace. Like the orphan we have no right to be adopted by God. But in the mystery of God's love for us, He has decided to make us His adopted children. Through God's grace we are no longer paupers, children of wrath, but sons of God and heirs to His Kingdom. We can call upon God as our Father.

MOREOVER, THE KING IN OUR STORY could make the orphan his son and heir only by legal adoption. But when God adopts us through grace He does more for us than legal adoption can do. Legal adoption cannot make the orphan the flesh and blood son of the king. But when we are adopted by God through grace, grace gives us a real share in the very life of God. In a real sense then, we become God's real children, sharing His own life.

THEN, JUST AS THE KING imparted to his adopted son his own knowledge and virtue, so God gives us a share in His Own knowledge and love. As knowledge and virtue trained the boy to inherit the kingdom, so the knowledge and virtue that come to us through the life of grace prepare us to inherit the vision of God. But whereas the king had to die before his adopted son could inherit the kingdom, it is we who must die before we can share in God's happiness in Heaven. Through death---as long as we die in the state of grace---we come to our Divine inheritance in Heaven. In Heaven we become the members of God's royal court. We share with Him the infinite treasure of His Own infinite perfection and happiness.

TRULY THE STORY OF GRACE is a story of Divine Love. Its magnificence holds us breathless. Through grace we are no longer slaves to sin or imprisoned in this world. We are the sons of God. And if we are His sons, then we are His heirs also. Ultimate happiness is within our grasp. The Love of God for us offers to us the gift of ecstatic happiness. We have but to reach out for it and grasp it in love. The Love of God calls to us for our love. The reward is God Himself. Who would refuse?


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