The concluding section of Fr. Schall's February 25, 2011, Ignatius Insight essay, "We Are the Risk of God: Reflections On the Limits of Divine Mercy":
John Paul II argues that the limits of evil are defined by the divine Mercy. What does this mean? The implication is not that everyone is automatically saved by the divine mercy that will excuse every sin. It won't. It will forgive every sin that can be forgiven, but that is the point. Forgiveness is contingent on repentance. What was new in the world as a result of the Incarnation was precisely that sins were forgiven in principle by the sacrifice of Christ. Since he was both God and man, he alone bridged the gap of the heinousness of sin.
In the classic idea of punishment that we find in Plato and Aristotle, we see that the purpose of punishment, particularly voluntary punishment, was to restore the order that we have broken in our sins. Plato even states that we should want to be punished, that we are incomplete without it. Voluntary punishment is a sign that we recognize our part in putting disorder in the world.
Plato also held that if we commit a crime against someone, that act can only be forgiven by the one against whom the crime or sin was committed. What Christianity adds to this principle is that every sin is also an offense against God. This is why we cannot restore the order by ourselves.
Christianity combines both of these points. The sacrifice of Christ atones for the offense against God, and the public acknowledgement restores the validity of the law we voluntarily broke. Moreover, our sins can be forgiven by God, we can suffer the punishment, but the one against whom we sinned may still not forgive us. This refusal, however, is not our problem. The willingness to forgive is also included in revelation as one of our own responsibilities.
The limits of the divine mercy then are what God can forgive. He cannot forgive what is not asked or acknowledged. If he "imposed" forgiveness on us, we would cease to be free. This would negate the whole drama of our freedom and its consequences. God can respond to evil with good, as can we. Divine mercy broadens the scope of God's relation to us. But that broadening included the redemption on the Cross. God responded to the initial human disorder by driving Adam and Eve out of Paradise. They lost the way to God that was offered to them. But they were promised and finally give a second way, one that still respected their freedom and let the consequences of their acts remain in effect.
The limits of the divine mercy, then, are established by what even God cannot do. He cannot make us free and then make us un-free. What he can do is make us free and, when we abuse our freedom, offer us a way to restore the law or love we have violated. But even here, it is up to us. God can give us an example of what our sins cost. But he cannot make us see it or admit our part in it.
Would it have been better then for God not to have created us? By no means. God indeed risked something in creating free beings. He risked that some would reject his love. But he paid this price. We are redeemed in a fallen world in which justice remains alongside mercy. God preferred something rather than nothing. This is the reason we exist with the offering to us of eternal life, if we respond to his invitation. Such is the drama of the world we live in. We are the risk of God. Those who refuse the gift of grace, however many there be, are left with their choice. God cannot take that away from them. This is the limit of the divine mercy.
Read the entire essay: