Suppose that a human person commits some of the worst sins on the face of the earth, whatever those sins might be, and remains unrepentant. Suppose that he or she continues in grave sin, rejoices in that sin, calls the sin holy and good, and does not seek moral truth, nor exercise conscience at all. What mercy can that person expect from God?
Some say that they do not receive any mercy from God, that you must be repentant in order to receive mercy. They have badly misunderstood the grace of God.
Prevenient grace is the most misunderstood grace. It is God operating, not cooperating. Every human person receives this grace, without any possibility of cooperation or rejection. Prevenient grace is first grace, the grace that makes all other graces possible. Prevenient grace enlightens the intellective soul to perceive transcendent truths, such as good and evil, and frees the will of fallen man to be able to choose between good and evil.
The most wicked sinners in the world must have received prevenient grace, otherwise, they would not be guilty. It is only because they received the grace to understand right from wrong, and the grace to be able to choose right over wrong, that they are guilty of sin for knowingly choosing what is wrong. This is a mercy from God. He gives even the worst sinners the ability to distinguish good from evil, and the ability to choose good.
The Mercy of God gives all human persons, from the most sinful to the least sinful, prevenient grace. Then, the mercy of God offers all human persons another type of grace, subsequent grace. And this grace is offered by God to human persons, subject to their cooperation or rejection. No one can reject prevenient grace. But subsequent grace is humbly submitted by God to the decision of free will, a will that is able to choose good in cooperation with subsequent grace.
But even when hardened sinners choose to continue in their sin, thereby rejecting subsequent grace, they were in fact offered that grace from the Mercy of God. So that is the second type of mercy given or offered to even the worst sinners.
However, persons who are in a state of unrepentant actual mortal sin are able to cooperate with some subsequent graces, if only partially and haltingly, until they finally (hopefully) reach the point of choosing to cooperate fully with the offer of subsequent grace, so as to repent from their sins. Thus, many of the more sinful human persons do cooperate with some subsequent graces, even when they continue refusing to repent from actual mortal sin.
A third mercy is further given by God to all human persons, including the worst sinners: the help of providence. Even the worst sinners have assistance from the providence of God, attempting to show them the goodness of love and faith and hope, bringing examples of holiness and truth before them, and otherwise arranging the events of their lives so as to prompt them toward repentance.
These three mercies are given or offered to all human persons, including the worst sinners:
1. prevenient grace — mercifully given and actually received, without cooperation from free will.
2. subsequent grace — mercifully offered, but only received if the sinner cooperates with the grace in a free choice.
3. providence — mercifully given and actually received, without cooperation from free will
And if the sinner repents, he or she receives even more graces and more help from the providence of God. But those sinners who rejoice in evil and who never repent, in fact, do receive from God the above mercies.
Therefore, the mercy of God is not solely for the repentant. For how would any sinner repent, from the smallest sin or the worst sin or anything in-between, if they did not first receive grace, to enable their repentance? We cannot perform supernaturally good acts without the help of God’s grace.
Note: Perhaps we can divide providence into two types, similar to prevenient grace and subsequent grace. The first type of providence is actually received, without cooperation from the person; this would be analogous to prevenient grace. The second type of providence is offered, but not received unless the person chooses to take the path in life offered by providence. And then providence offers other goods, not available without that prior cooperation. This would be analogous to subsequent grace.
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