Friday, February 13, 2015

Faith in action

The question, it seems to me, is not, "Are we saved by faith or saved by works?" We're saved by faith. Since faith, along with hope and love, is what we call a "theological virtue," that is, a gift from God, saying we're saved by faith is just another way of saying God saves us. Acknowledging that it's God who saves us means we also accept that we don't save ourselves. We know that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). As per the second part of Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus caritas est, I believe the opposite is also true. (i.e., works without faith are dead).
With regard to the personnel who carry out the Church's charitable activity on the practical level, the essential has already been said: they must not be inspired by ideologies aimed at improving the world, but should rather be guided by the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, more than anything, they must be persons moved by Christ's love, persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with his love, awakening within them a love of neighbour (par 33)
If faith is a verb, then works are faith in action.

From whence cometh our criteria for good works? From the teaching of Jesus Himself throughout the entirety of the Gospels, in places like the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, to pick just one. I pick this one because recently I was exposed to the most eccentric reading of this passage I have ever encountered, one that would render Jesus' teaching utterly incoherent.

The relevant question, then, is, What do we mean by faith? More specifically, as the second part of the second chapter of the Letter of James deals with, what is the relationship of faith to life, or, stated in even simpler terms, Why does faith matter? Posing the question Why does faith matter?, brings us back to works without faith being dead. After all, you don't need faith to perform many good works, right? So, what does faith add to works, if anything at all? I'd say faith adds hope to good works, genuine hope. In this dimension the works wrought by faith together with hope, which is the flower of faith, are what make Christian service genuinely charitable.

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