On what, then, does the salvation of man depend?
- On what, then, does the salvation of man depend?
It depends on his making a good use of prayer, by which sinners obtain the grace of conversion; and the just, the grace to persevere in holiness of life.
Although it is true that no good works, done in the state of mortal sin, can of themselves merit or deserve the grace of justification, yet Almighty God, as we have seen above, expressly requires certain good works to be done by the sinner as necessary dispositions for receiving that grace. These dispositions are brought about in the sinner by actual grace, which God freely bestows on him in consideration of Christ’s merits; and when these dispositions are in the soul, the grace of justification is never refused. It is given, not as due to the sinner, but as due to Jesus Christ and to God’s own fidelity, who has promised that, when the sinner is so disposed, he will pardon his sins and receive him into his friendship. Now, actual grace, which disposes the sinner to receive the grace of justification, and enables the just man to persevere in holiness of life, is obtained by perseverance in prayer.
We may, therefore, fairly conclude that the whole mystery of man’s salvation and sanctification depends entirely on the constant and proper use of this great means of prayer. “As God, in the natural order,” says St. Alphonsus, “ordained that man should be born naked, and in want of many of the necessaries of life; and as, at the same time, he has given him hands and understanding to provide for all his wants, so, also, in the supernatural order, man is born incapable of remaining good and obtaining salvation by his own strength; but God, in his infinite goodness, grants to everyone the grace of prayer, and wishes that all should make constant use of this grace, in order thereby to obtain all other necessary graces.”
“God does not command impossibilities; but, when commanding, he admonishes us to do what we are able, and pray for what we are not able to do, and he then aids us that we may be able.” (Cone. Trid., Sess. 6, c. xi.) Prayer, therefore, is the universal means by which every grace necessary to procure for us -eternal life may be obtained with infallible certainty, since the Son of God cannot deceive us. In this respect it differs from the sacraments, from penitential works, and the other means which God has given us in order to obtain eternal life. These are particular means, each producing or procuring particular graces: baptism produces one grace, and penance, another. It is the same with the other sacraments or means of salvation. But to none of these, nor to all put together, without prayer, has God promised all the graces necessary for eternal life. Prayer is the only means to which he has promised all the efficacious helps and graces necessary for our salvation. It is a means given to all, without exception; for God gives the grace of prayer to the most hardened sinners as well as to the most holy of the just; and he has given it to every adult that ever lived, from the time of Adam to the present day. By making a good use of this grace of prayer, the worst sinner may obtain, as infallibly as the greatest saint, every efficacious grace necessary for his salvation, and may thus infallibly secure everlasting glory; for Jesus Christ has promised to hear the prayers of all, of sinners as well as of saints: “For every one that asketh, receiveth.”(Luke xi, .1.0.) He who says every one excepts none.
Hence, St. Alphonsus says that “one of the greatest pains of the damned is the thought that they could have saved themselves so easily by asking of God to give them true sorrow for their sins, and a firm will to amend their lives. No one, therefore,” says the saint, “can excuse himself before God by saying that his salvation was impossible, on account of the difficulties and obstacles which he met in the way of salvation. God will not hearken to such an excuse; he will answer: ‘If you had not strength and courage enough to overcome all obstacles and difficulties in the way of your salvation, why did you not ask me to come to your assistance? If a man has fallen into a deep pit, and will not take hold of the rope that is let down to draw him up, it is clearly his own fault if he perishes. Thus the sinner, too, is lost through his own fault, if he neglects to pray for his salvation. I have waited for you so many years, the Lord will say to the sinner, in the hope that you would at last ask for the grace of true repentance, for the amendment of your sinful life. Had you only asked, you would have instantly received; for, to call on me for assistance, is to be delivered and saved.’” ……
Taken from Grace and the Sacraments