Isaiah 50:4-9; Ps 116 I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35
Faith or works?
This is a hot topic. It has been hot since the reformation. Martin Luther made it a big deal. It continues to cause havoc for many.
What is the deal.
It is actually very simple.
We are saved by grace through faith. This is not from you: it is a gift from God. It is not from works so that no one may boast as St Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9
Most non catholics would say, "see there I told you so."
Unfortunately most well meaning people stop there and don't bother reading the rest of the words of St Paul.
Look at Ephesians 2:10 "For we are is workmanship created in Christ Jesus for the good works prepared by God in advance that we may live (walk) in them."
Did St Paul just say we were created for Good works prepared for God in advance that we may live in them?
I think so.
So in truth it is both Faith and Works as St James in our Second reading tries to get through out thick skulls.
We are saved by grace through faith for good works. This would be a better biblical understanding of the so called Faith or Works controversy.
We are justified by grace which is a free gift from God who calls us to himself. No one comes to the Father accept who the Father calls. God alway initiates the encounter. He makes the first move.
This is the initial conversion. This is why we catholics baptize infants so that we can proclaim that God is the one who initiates our life in faith by his free gift. By grace through faith we are saved. We are justified by grace in faith.
But that is just the beginning of our relationship with God. We must respond to God's grace offered to us. We must move toward him as he moves toward us. This is what we call sanctification. We are saved by God's grace but we are sanctified, that is we grow in holiness by love.
Faith is perfected in love.
St James says this very clearly in his letter in Chapter 2:22, "Faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. "Again St James states it clearly in 2:24, "See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."
This by the way is the only time the words faith and alone are seen together side by side in the bible and it is used in the negative, "not by faith alone." Sola Fide is not biblical.
It is an unbiblical teaching promoted by those who claim to be biblical Christians. Strange but I digress.
Truth be told. Faith is what puts us in the game. We are no longer on the sidelines as spectators. We have been empowered by Christ to do those things by which we were created for.
Faith is the gift of God's grace that empowers us to act on his behalf in the world: faith and works!
Faith to be salvific must be expressed; it must express itself in action. But all of Christians believe this. We all celebrate this in life and love.
So why do we keep beating each other up? Wonders never cease, I suppose.
See again St James' words, "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Pope Francis said a similar thing back in Feb, "faith without works, doesn't engage us in the world, it doesn't lead us to witness, thus it is not faith but words and nothing more than words."
God wants us to be people of action and witness. Words are easy.
Just like in the gospel when Jesus ask, "who do say that I am?"
We all have to answer this question. But Jesus isn't looking for the answer in the words we speak but in the way we live. By our actions in the world, what answer do we give to this question of Jesus, "who do you say that I am?"
Is he a fraud? deluded holy man that means well? false prophet? moral teacher that met tragic end? A starry eyed messiah (in the word of the eagles)? Son of God?
Word and deed must align as we answer this question daily in our life as we invest our love and move forward each day anew. Do our actions proclaim Jesus' Lordship over our life.
Our answer can never be conditioned by circumstances. Peter had the right answer but his answer was conditioned by circumstances and what was appealing to him.
How often do we judge our faith based on what is appealing to us, whether it gives us the warm and fuzzy? This can not be the case in real conviction or faith.
Jesus mentions the cross and denying ourselves and following after him. Faith must keep him at the center and follow after his lead an not let the circumstances dictate our conviction.
Is our Faith God centered or self centered?
Let your Faith shine through your works: Saved by grace through faith for good works.
So Work your faith. Work it!