Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"My sin is too great to merit pardon"

St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Our Lady

In today's Office of Readings we find this little treasure from St. Bernard:

Surely the man who said: My sin is too great to merit pardon, was wrong. He was speaking as though he were not a member of Christ and had no share in his merits, so that he could claim them as his own, as a member of the body can claim what belongs to the head. As for me, what can I appropriate that I lack from the heart of the Lord who abounds in mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear. Through the openings of these wounds I may drink honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone: that is, I may taste and see that the Lord is sweet.

It is a brilliant and helpful insight that since we are the Body of Christ, we can claim much (though of course not all) of what belongs to the Head, that is, Jesus. On my own, my love and obedience are terribly flawed and imperfect. But as a member of the Body of Christ, I can claim Jesus' perfect love and perfect obedience as my own. The language of "merit" and "worth" is controversial to some people but is found somewhat frequently in the saints. On my own I cannot merit the eternal life that God has promised, only by claiming the merits of Jesus as my own can I be made worthy.

What this does in the end is takes the pressure of me to try and "earn" God, but calls me to the grace of humility to just accept the salvation that God offers.


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