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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Faith Without Action Is Dead, Part I

Father Jerome, Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY
I find the passages [James 2: 14-24 -26] from the Letter of Saint James rather daunting. "What good is it for an individual to say that he or she has faith, but has never done a single good deed?" (James 2:14) Every Sunday, we profess our faith in the Word who became flesh and lived in our midst (Cf. Jn. 1:14). Recall these words recorded in the Gospel of St. John. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). God not only spoke of love, but He also manifested His love. Through the mystery of the Incarnation God's love was made tangible. Our Christian faith tells us that Jesus Christ is the fullness of the Father's glory, the exact image of His being, who sustains all things in being by the power of His word (CF. Heb. 1:3). God not only speaks of love and mercy, He also does works of love and mercy through the life, death and resurrection of His only-begotten Son. Consequently, if our faith is real, it too must be tangible.

Our faith in the Incarnate Word must be transformed by the Word Himself. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews gave us this description of the Word. "Indeed, the Word of God is something living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating the divide between soul and spirit, separating bone and muscle. It judges our innermost thoughts and exposes us for what we really are" (Heb. 4:12). We believe in the Eternal Word of the Father who is able to penetrate the human heart. There is no vitality in a faith that is devoid of mercy and charity. As we hear in the first reading, "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is quite dead" (James 2:17). A careful reading of Sacred Scripture shows us that the charity of Christ and the compassion of His disciples were always intended to manifest the loving-kindness of the Father. This manifestation is significant. The Church should never underplay the sense of good works that point towards the love of God. After all, Jesus did institute love of neighbor as the first commandment for behavior among His disciples, acting Himself as a witness of this love. In the Acts of the Apostles we find an account of how the apostles spoke of Christ. "He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). What a beautiful description of Christ's life and ministry! Belief in the Word and works of mercy are integrally bound together. To be continued tomorrow …

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