Grace is a gift from God that does not belong to our nature as human beings and, therefore, is called supernatural, or above our nature. It belongs to the realm of God. Quite simply, grace is God’s very life within you. The origin of grace is God—most specifically, the merits of Jesus Christ on the wood of the cross—and grace is absolutely necessary to attain life. Grace helps us to achieve this ultimate goal in our lives. Grace is available to everyone because of the universal salvific will of God: the doctrine that God offers every human being the chance or possibility of being saved. Whether or not any individual goes to heaven or hell depends totally on his personal decisions and actions in life. God offers everyone “sufficient grace” to be saved, but it only becomes “efficacious grace” for those who freely accept and cooperate with that grace. No one is predestined to hell or damnation. God would like everybody to go to heaven, but because we have free will, He respects our decisions even to reject Him, His grace, and heaven, if in our sinfulness we choose to do so.
We depend upon God for everything. Our very next breath is a gift from God. It goes without saying that even the higher faculties, such as knowledge, depend upon God. As children in catechism class, we learned early on that we were created to know, love, and serve God, and to prepare ourselves in this life to be with Him for all eternity. This ability requires the supernatural gift of grace in order for us to grasp eternal truths about God and His plan for our salvation. Because of original sin and our fallen and wounded human nature, we are not as loving as we were created to be, hence, the ability to love God beyond all things is the supernatural gift of grace. Original sin wounded our human nature in that it darkened the intellect, weakened the will, and disordered our passions and emotions. This makes us vulnerable to sin and temptation. Divine Grace compensates for the Fall of Adam and Eve, and it is grace which actually heals our wounded human nature by enlightening our intellect, strengthening our will, and keeping our human emotions and passions under control. In fact, even the ability to do good and works of charity depends upon the gift of divine grace. Finally, the abilities to pick ourselves up from sin, to be forgiven, to follow the commandments, and even to avoid sin depend upon grace.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century Catholic theologian, said that grace builds upon nature and perfects it. To be sustained in the presence of God, to avoid sin, and to persevere requires grace, but because of our free will we can always lose grace. Through grace we become the adopted children of God, members of His mystical body, the Church, and heirs to the heavenly throne. Grace elevates our nature. It brings us to share intimately in the life of God. Chiefly through the sacrament of baptism we become the temples of the Most Holy Trinity, and our humanity is raised.
Grace is absolutely important at the end of our life. It prepares the soul for God. In order for us to be saved, we must have the grace of final perseverance. Jesus tells us in the Gospels, “Those who persevere to the end shall have eternal life.” In Catholic devotions, St. Joseph is the patron saint of a blessed death because he intercedes with God for us to persevere in the final transition from this life.