Monday, October 22, 2012



The first of today’s (Monday, 10/22/12’s) readings in the Catholic Church comes from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, concluding with verses 8-11:

For by grace you have been saved through faith,

and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;

it is not from works, so no one may boast.

For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works

that God has prepared in advance,

that we should live in them.

This is far, far from the only place in which Paul has made the point that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not from our works, our devotion, dedication, or anything else we can do, have done, or will do; faith, not works, saves us and we incapable of achieving our own salvation. All the novenas, all the Masses or services we attend, all the confessions we make, all the work among the poor and the sick, all of the personal sacrifices we make for others will not win us salvation. Salvation cannot be won or earned; it is a free gift from God, won by the sacrifice of His Son on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. Paul could not be more explicit in making this point than he is in this passage.

Does this mean that works are worthless, that we are free to do whatever we please as long as we believe in God? Of course not, for at least two reasons.

First, our good works are a manifestation of our faith, a sign of our faith. He who says he has faith in God and then acts in a manner contrary to God’s wishes, or to sound morals, may believe in God but he has no faith in God. As James said, (Chapter 2, vs. 18-22, New American Bible):

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 that faith was completed by the works. (Emphasis mine)

The minor point here is that I love St. James; he tells it like it is (“you ignoramus..) and provides me solace, or at least justification, when I, as is my wont in my blogs and elsewhere, put the proper label on someone.

The major point here is that believing is not faith; even the demons believe that Jesus is the Christ, as demonstrated in several of his exorcisms. Faith is deeper than belief. That faith is demonstrated, or, as James puts it, completed by works. Anyone can say “Oh, yeah, I believe that Jesus is Lord.” But true faith is demonstrated by the way we live our lives—with an awareness of Christ. And it is living in this awareness, rather than living by the rules, that saves us.

The second reason that good works are necessary lies in the old expression that God has no hands or, with a slight variation, that we are the only hands God has. If God is to accomplish His work of salvation, we must do our very large part in spreading the word of God so that others may have faith in Him and thus be saved. We can do so with words, but, as St. Francis of Assisi said,

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.


It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.

Again, we demonstrate our faith through our works and we preach the faith through our works. Further, God needs us to accomplish His work of salvation; without us, nothing, or very little, gets accomplished in saving the human race through faith in Him and in His Son.

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