Divine-human co-operation

So I am trying to understand how the Catholic Church understands divine-human co-operation.

Here’s my understanding -

God offers us grace.
We choose to accept that grace (eg. going to confession, receiving the Eucharist).
Grace gives us the strength to do right when we will it.
Grace does not cause us to will to do the right things; we can still choose evil.

Please comment on my understanding and correct me if I am wrong.


My favorite readings on the Gospels are the stories of healing by Jesus Christ. I have posted on this before, but have you ever noticed how Jesus Christ healed someone by commanding him/her to do what his/her sickness prevented him from doing?

Let us take for example Jesus’ healing of the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9-13). How did Jesus do it here?

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

Now, knowing myself, if I was that man commanded by Jesus I would say, “What?! I have a withered hand here, paralyzed, cannot move it, and you want me to stretch my hand?! Are you crazy?!” But fortunately the man was not me, for

…the man stretched his hand out, and it was restored, whole like the other.

So what happened? Was the power to stretch his hand the man’s? No, it was Jesus’, but still the man obeyed, even though he did not have the power to obey. And that’s how each and every one of Jesus’ healings happened.

Obedience to God is where grace resides.

God love you.

Yes, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and. We can’t be saved without God, but He won’t save us without us. So it’s synergistic; God prompts and draws us, but doesn’t coerce us. These are from the Catechism:

**1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

1993 Justification establishes* cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom*. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:
When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.42
Grace is never irresistible. And yet our wills aren’t strong enough to move themselves towards God. The tension or conflict in conceiving of how God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom work together is never completely resolved. In any case I see the will of man as the “problem”, because man is lost, cut off from his creator, residing in ignorance. Man lacks knowledge of God, let alone the wisdom to know that He’s good and trustworthy

And, truth be known, man even *prefers *things this way-prefers this separation, until he has a change of heart at least. The Incarnation and Atonement call man out of his “hiding”, back to the Father- the ultimate proofs of God’s existence, love, and trustworthiness, aimed at the heart of man’s unreasonable distrust and even hatred of the God he, paradoxically, won’t quite believe in.

So we need grace; God “tweaks” our obstinate wills, perhaps, but gently. But we must respond. He also places increasing responsibility on our side-on our willingness to respond, on what we do with grace given as in the Parable of the Talents. In this way grace moves to more grace, faith to more faith, everything moving ultimately towards love, our true justice. God’s work of justifying isn’t done until He says so.

Paul says it nicely:

“…for He works in us both to will and to do…”

Grace is the work of the Holy Spirit on our will to enable it. Without this enabling, we are lost. However, by the assent of the enabled will, we can, though the Holy Spirit, carry out those works which God has prepared beforehand for us.

It is the assent of the will which cause us to be like Christ, and to thus derive merit (the worthiness of reward). For, if it were it the actions themselves, then it could be said that we were earning our salvation.


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