This is something I really did not desire to write about because I am not qualified; but, in the last week, I have had two people tell me how thankful we should be for free will. We should be, because it is a great gift of God, but there are also many dangers. It is my desire that we utilize an understanding of "free will" to recognize how frail we are and to cry out more for God's grace. I am writing this 3 o'clock in the morning and haven't proofed it.
Do we have free will? Absolutely. We know this because the Church teaches this. Is free will good? Absolutely. God only gives good gifts. That being said, let’s delve into it a little.
Adam and Eve were created in full light. They were created without sin.
They used their free will to rebel against God. We cannot—and must not—think that we would have done any differently. If we had been them, we would have done likewise. Because of God, because of who He is, because of His mercy and grace, He condescended to “go after them” in order to save them, to save us. St. Peter, knowing who Jesus is, denied our Lord three times, even with a curse. He had free will. He could have used that freedom to die with Christ, or he could have used that freedom to save his temporal life and deny Christ. He chose the latter. St. Peter was not forced to deny Christ; he freely chose to.
During the persecution of the Church, many chose to die for Christ. Also, there were many who, due to the threat of death, chose to deny Christ. They were not forced to deny Christ. They could have, like others, chosen death; they chose to use their freedom of the will to deny Him. This caused a division in the Church because there were some who believed that, because they denied the Faith, they could not return to the Church.
Today, I think most people use the term “free will,” thinking they have the free will to accept or reject Christ. In this, they would be mostly wrong. One needs to read St. Ambrose and St. Augustine to get a good understanding of this. What I am going to write about is experientially.
I have two brothers and three sisters; we have the same parents, were reared the same way. They are not that “religious”—for lack of a better term. Why? Am I smarter than they? Why is it that you believe in Christ, but the other person does not? Is it because you are smarter than they? No. Then why is it? Must it not come down to the mercy and grace of God?
I do not desire to go much further than this because I believe this is mostly a mystery hidden in God. This is why I recommend reading St. Augustine and St. Ambrose. We do use our free will to cooperate with the grace of God, but this raises other questions: What made me to desire to cooperate with the grace of God, yet the other person did not have the same desire? Hear Jesus: “You did not choose Me; I chose you.” Many times, our faulty view of “free will” leads us into presumptuousness.
We do not fear sinning because all we have to do is go to confession and confess our sins. The Church teaches that this would not be a good confession. The Church also teaches that we should only utilize created things to bring us closer to the Creator. Utilizing our freedom of the will, is this the purpose we utilize television for? What about the games? What about everything else we own? It is only by the grace of God that we utilize the freedom of the will correctly, and this also leads us to presumptuousness: que sera, sera (whatever will be, will be).
May we recognize our frailty and put no trust at all in ourselves, but place all trust and confidence in our God, who—because of His love for us—sent His Only Begotten Son to redeem us, to save us, by His Passion, death, and resurrection. May we recognize that we utilize free will more to rebel against God than to obey Him. We do utilize our free will to cooperate with His grace when He causes us to recognize our sins and to repent, confessing our sins in Confession. T.T.