Friday, February 17, 2012

Faith is completed by works

I have made my profession of faith, and I came home to the "white shores and the far, green country under a swift sunrise"1 which subsists in the holy Catholic Church.

But just when I think I have begun to make real progress in conversion of my whole person, body and soul, I get whacked in the face by a dose of reality called The Holy Scriptures.

Take today's first reading for Mass2:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works
when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

—James 2:14-24, 26

Did you catch it? [A] person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Turns out my good intentions and my regular intellectual assent are not enough. Thankfully, Jesus' apostles -- and their successors -- were paying attention when the Lord said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

Now the trick is for me to do so, too.

1. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
2. VI Friday in Ordinary Time, Year II


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