<< Home > << Weekend Homilies
A listing of recent homilies delivered at my parish.
Una lista de homilías recientes entregadas en mi parroquia.
Una lista de homilías recientes entregadas en mi parroquia.
- 09-12-2021 - 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
According to some historians, Martin Luther wanted to remove the letter from James from the Bible. He did remove some books from the Old Testament, and that is why Catholic Bibles are bigger. It is not that we added anything to the Bible, but Martin Luther and the Protestants removed things from the Bible. But it is believed by some that this particular section of James’ letter is what caused Martin Luther such problems.
Martin Luther wanted to say that we are saved by faith alone. However James’ writing proves just the opposite is the truth.
This teaching from James is perfectly in line with that of Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
A faith without deeds cannot obtain salvation. This is a quote from the Second Vatican Council: “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart’. All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results not from their own merits but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged”.
In the Christian life, therefore, there needs to be complete consistency between the faith we profess and the deeds we do.
Now in fairness I think many if not most Protestants live lives of faith that include good works. They simply do not see it as an integral part of what it means to receive the salvation of Jesus. Because of the disconnect here and the attempt to distance themselves from Catholic thought and teaching, they choose to not highlight the understanding of the need for charity as part of a spiritual life. I believe many of them live that – in some ways in an even better way or stronger way than many Catholics.
I am not trying to go around this big problem in the different understandings of a proper spiritual life. What I am trying to say is that I think – and this is my thought, red flag – that the majority of the issue is not in living out the faith but in the thoughts about the faith. It is true that there are some people who are so caught up in the distinction of words that they believe there is little to no agreement in how to live a life of faith. But I think this is wrong.
Let me repeat that quote from the second Vatican Council. “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart’. All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results not from their own merits but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged”.
Let me pull that statement apart a little bit. None of the things we do merit our salvation unless they are done with the grace of God. We can choose to do good things or bad things. Our choice of the good things can be either entirely human or grace filled with our human activity.
How do we know the difference between a good thing done from only human motives and a good thing done with the grace of God? The answer to that is: it is not up to us to judge that. This is why we do the good works of the church, the good works of humanity, the loving actions in our daily lives. And we try to make them done in the name of Jesus.
This is what James was talking about. It is possible to do good for… selfish reasons. But once we begin to do good with the grace of God we discover how much more pleasant and rewarding these things are because they are done for love of God and love of neighbor.
Now let us look at the last part of the quote: “If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged”. We have to struggle to cooperate with the grace of God. It is not always easy to see where the grace of God is leading us. But every one of us has heard the voice of God in one way or another.
Let me give you a brief tutorial on understanding the voice of God. Look back through your own life at decisions you have made and find two. The first is a decision you made that you knew was right and you are happy at making the choice. The second is a decision you made that you knew was right but you are not happy with that choice. Yet you stayed with the decision you made.
There is something similar about those two events. There is some… call it an emotion… that you can identify is similar between the two. Now I am going to add one more. It is a uniquely Catholic experience but it is the sense of “everything is okay” that you feel sometimes when you hear the words of absolution in confession: “I absolve you of your sins…”
Now, compare all three of those. There is something similar in all three and that is how God speaks to you. It is unique to you, though similar to others. It is the unique way God speaks to your heart. Once you discover that feeling – if you can call it a feeling – you will be able to do things with the grace of God more easily.
I have run out of time. Otherwise I would try to develop this a little bit more. But – with a little shameless advertising – I would remind you that I do post my homilies as podcasts. And my podcast site is on the front of the bulletin. If you want to review this, go there.