Behold I stand at the door and knock
Some of us might have seen a picture or painting of Christ knocking at a door. Usually the door in the picture has no handle, i.e. it must be opened from inside. The picture, minus door handle, is based on Revelation 3:20:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Revelation 3:20 (RSV)
Notice the conditional statement (starting with “if”) in the above verse, i.e. Christ will come in if the person hears His voice and opens the door. While Christ takes the initiative to knock our door, He will not force Himself in; He waits our response and respects our freedom. Thus it is possible that the person does not hear Christ knock or he/she hears it but decides not to open the door. Catholics and some Protestants believe that while God takes the first initiative to save us, we do have freedom either to accept or to reject His free offer (free offer means that we neither have to be good persons nor do something that pleases God to make Christ knock at our door). In other words in Catholicism God’s Grace requires human cooperation – humans are not robots that will automatically move in prescribed direction after being switched on by God’s Grace (other analogy is humans are not cars that moves according to the will of the drivers). The Catholic Church declares her position on human freedom in responding to God’s Grace in the following:
If any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema
Council of Trent, Canon IV of the Decree of Justification
When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight. “
Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993
Note the last phrase in Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1993: without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight. This phrase makes clear that Catholics are not semi-Pelagians, who believe we can use our freedom to make the first move for our salvation.