Whose Will Is Greater: God’s or Man’s?

Dear Catholic Exchange,

I have heard about man's free will and how, when he exercises it in opposition to God's will and laws, there's not much that can be done until that man decides for himself to follow the Lord. Doesn't that imply that man's will is greater than God's and that nothing (for example, a miracle) can be done, even by God Himself to change that man's mind or way of thinking? What happens, then to "for God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26)?

Thank you.

Rita Foran


Dear Rita,

Thank you for this interesting question, which points to the mysterious interplay of human freedom and divine grace.

It is true that when we freely choose against God and embrace evil, God will not override the decision and force us to choose otherwise. If He were to do so, then He wouldn't be respecting our human nature, and our freedom would be a mere fa├žade. In other words, we were made to know, love, and serve God, and these things presuppose the free exercise of our God-given human powers.

But none of this in any way implies that our powers are greater than God's, as divine grace is always at work, making it possible for the prodigal son or daughter to come home. The Catechism, quoting Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, notes that even before faith can be exercised, "man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth'" (no. 153).

God gives us the ultimate freedom to say no to Him, but at the same time works on the sinner's heart to enable him to say yes.

For a dynamic collection of essays that describes in more detail how God's grace and human cooperation work together in building the family of God, see Hahn and Suprenant, eds., Catholic for a Reason: Scripture and the Mystery of the Family of God.

United in the Faith,

Leon Suprenant, President

Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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