Grace and merit


#1

I am not Catholic but I am studying Catholicism in an effort to explore the call that I feel toward it.

My question regards the CCC and its discussion of merit. Am I correct in understanding that the Catholic Church believes that the meritorious part of any good work is only the grace which is infused into it?

For example if I give money to charity, then when the Catholic Church discusses a reward which is due to that work, it is strictly referring to the divine grace which prompted the work, which exists in the work and which is increased (by God’s free choice) by the work. In other words, it is God which is meriting God’s reward, but God out of charity and love is attributing the reward to us, the vehicle but not the driver.

It is like when a man adopts a stranger’s child into his household as a son. The actions of the child now merit the reward due to a son, but only by the free association of the man with the child, only by virtue of his adoption and not by anything the child has himself done or could ever do.

I apologize if it sounds like I am thinking out loud, but I would be very interested in comments to make sure I understand the Catholic viewpoint. Coming from a Protestant background and looking into Catholicism, the issue of grace and merit are very important to me. Thank you for your time :slight_smile:


#2

Grace is a gift from God,it is nothing that we deserve.Is that what you are asking?i believe you are on the right track if I am understanding your question.God Bless


#3

I think Jimmy Akin explains it really well:

Righteousness and Merit

This might also be helpful:

Reversing Babel: A Calvinist Reading of the Tridentine Doctrine of Merit” (PDF warning)


#4

Thank you both for your responses. The first link you provided, Vincent, was very helpful.


#5

I guess you could say that God first gives us the grace to do the good works and then gives us yet more grace for being obedient and cooperating with the first graces. This is a vicious cycle :smiley: that I have no doubt is meant to bring us home to the kingdom of heaven.
Does that help any? :thumbsup:


#6

Thanks Church Militant. Based on my understanding of Catholic beliefs I would further clarify that the ability to be obedient and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit are themselves fruits of grace. Would you agree?

Further question: It seems, considering Vincent’s second link pgs 5-6, that there is, or at least was, some disagreement between medieval theologians as to whether “man’s refusal to reject” initial justification is a work which God rewards de congruo, or whether even that requires special grace. Has this question been settled definitively since Trent, or are Catholics able to disagree on this matter in good conscience?

Thanks again.


#7

[quote=Jeremy]My question regards the CCC and its discussion of merit. Am I correct in understanding that the Catholic Church believes that the meritorious part of any good work is only the grace which is infused into it?
[/quote]

Basically, you are correct. God has promised to reward our good works. Our good works can only be good when done in a state of grace. You can only be in a state of grace by faith and baptism, which is the application of Christ’s merits to us. Thus, our reward is given to us because of the grace Christ won for us and applied to us.


#8

Hello Jeremy,

Do you remember that Jesus called those who follow Him “branches of the Vine?” When Jesus lives in us, it is He whom we glorify whenever we do good works. You might remember this scripture from Mt. 5:15-16, “Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house. In the same way your light must shine before men so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father.”

Each day as we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are not called to be passive bystanders awaiting it, but active workers who help bring it about, through Christ who lives in us and inspires the work through His Spirit.


#9

Hi Jeremy,

Sounds pretty good to me. Since even a good thought we have comes from God, it is obvious that we cannot merit. It is only by our association to Jesus Christ, in the mystical body, that we can “merit”. Through his sacrificial death he has done all the meriting that’s coming to us through that association.

Verbum


#10

[quote=Jeremy]Based on my understanding of Catholic beliefs I would further clarify that the ability to be obedient and to cooperate with the Holy Spirit are themselves fruits of grace. Would you agree?
[/quote]

That seems right.

Further question: It seems, considering Vincent’s second link pgs 5-6, that there is, or at least was, some disagreement between medieval theologians as to whether “man’s refusal to reject” initial justification is a work which God rewards de congruo, or whether even that requires special grace. Has this question been settled definitively since Trent, or are Catholics able to disagree on this matter in good conscience?

My impression is that there’s more or less a tendency towards the Thomistic view. I’m basing this on Trent’s teaching that “nothing that precedes justification, whether faith or works, merits the grace of justification.”

Then again, I personally find St. Thomas’s argument against any kind merit of first grace to be reasonable. I frankly don’t know if it has been settled definitely. I’ll look around and see what I can find.


closed #11

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