Merit before Baptism is not the same thing as merit before justification.
I’ve been having an interesting conversation in Greenbaggins blog, where the folks I’m talking to equate justification and Baptism. They keep saying to me, interchangeably:
Vincent said, #1245 November 9, 2014 at 9:12 am
Faith is a free gift in Catholicism not a meritorous work. The grace of baptism is not merited. That is official catholic teaching.
Eric W said, #1261 November 9, 2014 at 1:04 pm
De Maria (re: 1255),
RC theology teaches…:
2. Grace of justification (grace of baptism)….
Although it is true, that it is Catholic Teaching that we are perfectly justified in Baptism. What these folks seem to have forgotten, is that the Catholic Church teaches that justification is a PROCESS that begins well before Baptism and does not end until we die. Well, at that point its put on hold until the final judgement where we will stand before the King of Kings for our final justification.
So, when the Church says that the grace of justification is not merited, She means that grace which we receive to begin the process of justification at the beginning of conversion is not merited. Lets go over some of the Catechism regarding this subject:
2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace.
That’s the unmerited grace of the Call to Conversion.
The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
After that Call, if we turn to God in faith and seek His Face, we begin to merit. This is before Baptism.
2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification,
at the beginning of conversion (see 2008).
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.
So, I think that is what is missing. The understanding that justification begins before Baptism and doesn’t ever end.