Though the previous post did not directly mention it, as soon as one discusses justification, it is almost certain that a few matters of history and doctrine will come to light: justification by faith, and justification by faith and works. Generally, it is thought that Martin Luther (as well as Protestantism as a whole) and the Catholic position completely disagree—Luther is pro-faith, and Catholicism pro-faith-and-works, or in some minds just pro-works. However, if one looks at the texts of the Catholic Council of Trent, it appears that the general accepted understanding of this soteriological matter may be inaccurate. For-instance, the Council declares: “If anyone says that a person can be justified before God by his own works…apart from divine grace through Jesus Christ: let him be anathema”. I think that most Protestants would appreciate such a statement. Both the Catholic and the Protestant can agree that salvation occurs only through the gratuity of God. It is through grace that man has and receives eternal life. No one can earn salvation—that is heresy. However, and as we will examine further throughout this series, where a much greater distinction exists between the Catholic and Protestant doctrine is in the understanding of grace itself.
Let us now take a look at Trent and see how the document identifies justification. In Chapter 7 of Session 6 of the Council, the document reads: “Justification consists not only in the forgiveness of sins but also in the sanctification and renewal of the inward being by a willing acceptance [emphasis added] of the grace and gifts…[so] that he is an heir in hope of eternal life (Tt 3, 7)”. Justification consists in a “renewal…by a willing acceptance of the grace and gifts” of God. The “renewal of the inward being” implies a sort of mysticism or elevation of oneself into God’s realm, a process that has its source in man’s “yes” to Jesus Christ. Justification also runs parallel with sanctification, becoming holy and blessed (see previous post) in God’s eyes. Communion with God, as shown by Jesus’ consistent “yes” to the Father’s will, must consist in the opening of oneself to God. So long as we knock, the door will be answerd (cf. Lk 11:9). Because justification is linked with sanctification and interior renewal, it entails a process of ascending into God—we could say theosis. However it must be emphasized that something real within the human person happens in this process of sanctification and renewal: in Jesus Christ holiness is actually possible for man. Grace and love are stronger than sin and death!
Moreover, God does not, by His grace, take control of His disciples and treat them as pawns on a chess board. It is clear in the Gospel accounts that His disciples were not always ‘on par’ (e.g., Peter’s denial). God gave man a will, and His grace never treats it robotically. Hence the Council’s position that justification includes a “willing acceptance” of God’s grace that leads toward the process of interior renewal; for true internal renewal cannot be accomplished by man’s doing alone, but requires the grace and love of His Creator. I think that it would be benefical to parallel grace with authentic freedom, that is, an authentic capability and inclination—which increases according to the freedom of the subject—to love.
Ultimately a theology of repentence is being developed: justification is linked to one’s life-long journey of the self’s total orientation toward God. To repent is to completely re-orient one’s life. I think that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger thus put it excellently, then, when he defined faith as “an existential attitude… [and] the direction of life”. It is not an acknowledgement of a fact. The faith of the Christian is the direction of his life. Belief in Christ is much different than, for-instance, believing in the sphericity of the earth; belief in Christ is such that it requires a new way of being: “The way we may be sure that we know him [Jesus Christ] is to keep his commandments…whoever claims to abide in him ought to live just as he lived” (1 Jn 2: 3,5).
The document reads later: “no one can be just unless the merits of the passion of our lord Jesus Christ are communicated to him”. True repentence, and true Christian living cannot be created from within by one’s own doing; contrarily, the true life requires an open heart of acceptance so that the grace of God may touch man’s heart and renew him. Only through the merits of the Crucified’s love can man experience liberation and life, and so find the true path into God. Moreover, God gave out of love so that we may, in turn, participate in love—He gives that we may give. Now, the pinnacle of divine gifts is the Son, who in Christ is charity incarnate. He is the way into God: thus, to be charity is of paramount importance in being Christian and in any dialogue about justification. In other words, because the Word became flesh, the flesh (us) can (and must) become Word in our being, and therefore, journeying through the piercings of Christ Crucified, ascend into the Heavenly Kingdom.
 Council of Trent, Session 6; Canons concerning justification, n. 1 (Note: All references to the Council of Trent in this series are taken from Session 6. Future quotations will reference their chapter or canon number—unless sufficient information is given in the context of the paragraph.)
 “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love” (CCC 2000).
 Faith and the Future (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009), 35