Life in Christ
Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the
divine nature, can bestow
on us as a result of God’s gra
tuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love,
making us “co-heirs” with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the
promised inheritance of eternal life.”
The merits of our good
works are gifts of the divine goodness.
“Grace has gone before
us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God’s
Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace,
one can merit the initial grace
of forgiveness and justification, at the
beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity,
we can then merit
for ourselves and for others the graces needed for
our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the
attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and
friendship can be merited in accordance with God’s wisdom. These
graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends
to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits
God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the
supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit be
fore God and before men. The saints have always had a lively
awareness that their merits were pure grace.
After earth’s exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the father
land, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want
to work for your
. . . In the evening of this life, I
shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask
you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished
in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own
and to receive from your
the eternal possession of
60 Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.
61 Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.
62 St. Augustine,
298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.
63 St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “Act of Offering” in
Story of a Soul,
tr. John Clarke
(Washington DC: ICS, 1981), 277.