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Home : Faith/Spirituality : The Question Box
9/11/2012 10:50:00 AM
Does free will end with our physical death?

Deacon Owen Cummings

Q — Does a person’s free will end with death?

A — The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 393 says this: “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”

The Catechism here is quoting from St. John of Damascus (ca. 675- ca. 749), On the Orthodox Faith (2.4). It is a very helpful comment. If we take this comment as our point of departure, then free will comes to an end in and through and with death. If there is no opportunity for repentance after death, as St. John suggests and the Catechism reiterates, then free will which is the basis of repentance has come to an end. Nonetheless, I think it is important to recall two facts.

First, God comes searching after every human heart with an unconditional love. God is the Love that will not let us go, that is, unless we really want finally and totally to depart from him. In that precise sense the Love that God is trumps the reality of death. Second, repentance and conversion are realities deep within the human person, not immediately measurable, and perhaps not always recognizable by our normally operative human criteria of judgment.

So, it seems to me at least that the only ones who know the reality of repentance and conversion at the point of death are the person and the God who is Love.

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