||Justification, Sanctification, and Merit
in Catholic Teaching
The radical sanctification of the soul is the result of the Trinity dwelling in the soul, in its essence, as in a temple, dwelling as He is in Himself, consubstantially. The Trinity AS Trinity makes a supernatural “nest” in the substance of the soul elevating it to His Divine level; this is what is in the Human Soul of Christ Who shares this presence of the Trinity that is in His Soul with our souls by incorporation into Him in
Baptism (Gal 3:27; 1 Cor 12:13; Rom 6:3-4).
By Baptism God is substantially present in the soul as Trinity, and yet the soul is still its own substance. That is why the person is “set apart for
God,” i.e., for God to dwell there as in a temple far exceeds His being there as Creator. In addition, supernatural Faith is poured into the mind as a real power; supernatural Hope in God is poured into the will; and above all supernatural Love of God is poured into the will, making faith alive with divine love
(1 Cor 13:2,13; Gal 5:6) as a radical power (along with many other virtues or real powers). All this is a participation or sharing in of what is in Christ’s Soul, Mind and Will.
A partial example: If you know math and you teach it to me, you still have it and now I do, too. Supernatural realities can likewise be shared without being lost. As the sunshine lights up the room without losing its own light, so the Holy Spirit lights up the baptized soul with the Light that is in Christ’s Human Soul (in its substance) and in His Mind and Will; there is a real sharing union with Christ spirituality, but latently. It is far more than being set apart (to be used); more than receiving faith. God is received actually as well as a grace that adjusts the soul to Him (His supernatural nest), as well as infused supernatural powers of believing in God, hope that He can accomplished what He promises, love of Him as He loves His Son and they the Holy Spirit, and vice-versa.
This creates a radical power of mutual Love, of open doors to one another. God is thus not separate from the baptized soul so graced. God is not just in his (the baptized) mind, but in his mind in a faith that is filled with Hope and Love arising out of the Spirit’s indwelling consubstantially. Thus he is a radically supernatural creature, actually regenerated with the holiness of God Himself Who is there, and thus made right (justified) with God through the mutual presence, but latently so.
God is just, so if He is making His personal home in the soul the soul is made just (right with God) by the grace which sanctifies him to accommodate Him. This is presupposed when we speak of working and fighting the tendencies of Original sin. Now God is going to give external graces to the person to activate his powers (he will be catechized by his parents, the Church, etc.) and at the same time will give an interior grace to accept the exterior grace. This interior grace comes from a movement of love from God Who is in the soul to the person who is free to ignore or accept. (So it is like God singing a tune from within which is “picked up” by the graced person who sings along simultaneously developing the latent power to sing, such that both are simultaneously singing all of the tune: God first in the order of cause and the person second in the order of cause (the song is the result or effect). Obviously there wouldn’t be a second inferior action of singing the tune if the first (God within the soul) hadn’t sung it in him. It is a duet! If we accept the grace given to us from God within us, there is a development of the radical sanctification already received in Baptism (God’s indwelling) which spreads into the activity of the person and the holiness of God spreads more into all the areas of a person’s life.
But there is a problem: there is resistance in the mind, will, emotions or body which is experienced at the same time as grace is breathed from within where God is dwelling. It costs us to accept some graces, to overcome the resistance within us (there is also resistance outside us from the world and the devil). So when we use the word “merit” we are presupposing that God is first doing the good action from within us, and we are accepting this action of God moving our will. Many people do not want to have to experience this pain of overcoming resistance to God’s grace and so do not accept the grace.
Now if we ignore external and internal grace we will transgress; and if the transgression is serious we break the mutual union of love that is a real relation between us and God and He leaves the substance of our soul. We have killed the supernatural love in our soul, and faith becomes lifeless (without divine love) as does hope which becomes ineffectual. There is thus a darkness in the substance of the soul since the Trinity is not there anymore (except in keeping us in existence) as a result of our breaking the relationship with Him through serious free choice. Thus we lose our rightness with God, our radical holiness which results when He is present within.
God does not abandon us, but gives exterior graces along with interior ones that move our will to repentance if we accept them, but in this case now from outside us since He is no longer in our souls. He comes back into us when we are reconciled to Him through the Priest in the Sacrament of Penance (“whose sins you shall forgive. . .”); and we again are justified with the very justice of God Who dwells within again. Thus justification is not an external decree, but a real participation in God’s own justice which is shared by Christ from His Soul into ours (as one can give me knowledge of math and not himself lose it).
Christ saves us from the loss of God within the soul, from separation from God within the soul. The Trinitarian presence of God within the soul (through Baptism, increased through the other sacraments and other ways, regained through the Sacrament of Penance if lost ) automatically sanctifies where He is at (i.e., the substance of the soul, the mind and the will). That means His presence makes right the soul in relation to God really, by sharing in His life. Once He’s there then all our activity of putting into action what we have received is coming from His presence within us first. But we can experience it as hard work, until another level is reached when the Holy Spirit takes over our experience such that everything just flows from within without a struggle, like a river that cannot help but flow - the contemplative and mystical level of the divine life.
So when we say “merit” we mean that God is united with the soul and thus is giving divine value to our accepting His grace to apply or develop, simultaneously with His willing it, the “talent” of a virtue. Otherwise, we can’t say “merit” when God is absent. With God actually present, He first, and we simultaneously together with Him-Who-Is-Within, do the same virtuous action (“work”) and that is how there is an increasing meriting of the intensity of His presence within us, and increasing of the quality of His love within us.
But many refuse to experience the pain of overcoming the resistance of our tendency to sin and thus refuse His grace: They refuse the Cross. And why “even when we do everything that is required of us we are still to regard ourselves as unworthy servants, who have done what we were told to do [from within by God ‘telling us’],” because we not only did not original the grace (He did), but He was with us as First Cause all through our co-willing it. Thus God brings to completion what He has will in us as First Cause. He then praises our accepting His grace by rewarding us with a greater intensity of His Love and Presence. HE
(GOD) is our reward.
It is the correspondence of love, of mutually interactive friendship. Thus He is the First Cause of the whole action of our increasing sanctification and we the second and interior cause of the whole action simultaneously throughout the whole action. We can’t take credit for being the First Cause, and as second cause we only did what we were told (what we heard from within). The grace of radical sanctification makes us right with God Who dwells within. If God sits on a throne, is not the throne made thereby holy? If God dwells in the temple, is not the temple holy?
“You are the temple of the living God, just as God has said: ‘I will dwell with them [i.e., within them
-- the Kingdom of God is within] and walk among them [i.e., as also between them in the bonds of charity and faith in the Church].’ Since we have these promises [God dwelling within us], beloved [i.e., loved by God dwelling within us and among
us], let us purify ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit [he presumes this can be done by us because of having factually the promise of actual indwelling], and in fear [no infallible knowledge that we are so saved as not to be able to lose this indwelling], strive [involves effort and pain] to fulfill our consecration [this indwelling, having the promise of God dwelling in us is a consecration, actually making us radically holy] perfectly [by this consecration spreading into every part of our life and person].”
This is St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1. There is hardly an exterior decree of justification even hinted at here.
From a second century A.D. homily:
“But how shall we show that we acknowledge Him? By doing what He says, by not disobeying his commands, and by honoring him not only with our lips but with our whole heart and our whole mind. Instead, let us be chaste, merciful and kind. We should also have compassion for one another, and not be covetous. We have to prove that we believe in him by performing such actions as these. . .Therefore, my brothers, let us enter the lists in the knowledge that the contest is imminent. Many men travel far to contend for a crown that soon fades, yet not all of them win, but only those who have strained every nerve and competed fairly. Let us so contend that we may all be crowned. . .”