Merit Revisited | Fr. Joseph R. Upton | Homiletic & Pastoral Review
One of the most significant themes is the doctrine of merit. This long-forgotten element of Catholic teaching has made a remarkably ostensible reappearance in the new translation.
Among the most striking changes in the new translation is the pervasive presence of rich doctrinal themes. It’s not as though these themes were absent from the liturgy before. They were clearly articulated in the original Latin text, but were unfortunately obscured in the previous translation.
One of the most significant themes is the doctrine of merit. This long-forgotten element of Catholic teaching has made a remarkably ostensible reappearance in the new translation. It appears regularly throughout the proper prayers, and is referenced in Eucharistic Prayer II which prays that “we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life.” It is a doctrine that has been misunderstood for centuries, and has been the source of great disagreement and consternation throughout the history of the Church.
Simply stated, merit makes our actions worthy of reward by God. Merit is part and parcel of our everyday natural lives: a laborer who performs his job well merits a proper wage, which has been promised by his employer pending the fulfillment of his duty.
The difficulty in understanding merit in the supernatural order is that it seems to place a condition on God, who is all-powerful and infinitely greater than any human act. While this is true, God himself has promised believers a just reward for persevering in this life. This teaching is profoundly scriptural. Jesus continually promises heavenly rewards to those who follow him faithfully: “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:12). Matthew 25 presents eternal life as a reward for those who served Christ with good works on earth. (See also Mt 19:29; 25:21; and Lk 6:38.)