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Our faith and our works

November 14, 2019 - Thursday 4:11 AM by Fr. Roy Cimagala

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            There is, of course, a close relation between our faith
and our works. As St. James said in his letter, “show me your faith
apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”
(2,18)
            He said earlier that faith by itself, if it has no works,
is dead. It profits a man nothing if he says he has faith but has no
works. “Can his faith save him?,” he asked. “If a brother or sister is
ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go
in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving him the things needed
for the body, what does it profit?” So, faith if real will always be
shown in works.
            But we need to be clear about one thing in this
relationship. While there is a close relationship between our faith
and our work, they cannot be held equal and identical. Faith is faith
which is a supernatural gift. While our works are a product of our own
effort which can never be made supernatural unless done with faith or
with God’s grace.
            To think that we can achieve sanctity by faith alone is to
fall into an anomaly or a heresy called Gnosticism. While to consider
that sanctity can be attained through our human works alone without
the faith is to fall into the heresy of Pelagianism. These two
heresies have been recently denounced in that document of Pope
Francis, “Gaudete et exsultate.”
            Let us remember that there are abundant pieces of evidence
of people who think and say they are holy or saintly but their evil
works betray their fervent profession of their faith. And also, there
are people who do a lot of good works and yet they are not holy
because their works lead them to the sins of pride, vanity, greed and
the like.
            Yes, we should have as strong and deep a faith as possible
and it should be somehow verified by our works. Our faith should so
inspire and shape our life and everything in it, especially our works,
should show that faith.
            Our works, to be truly good and capable of sanctifying us,
should be sanctified first of all by our faith and the grace of God.
Without the latter, our works would only be apparently good and can
occasion many other dangers to us.
            We need to see to it that we take care of growing in our
faith and of making it affect, as in inspiring and shaping, all the
aspects of our life. We can never say we have enough faith. Our life
can never be made supernatural, nor can it be conformed to Christ who
is the pattern of our humanity, if it is not a life shaped by our
faith.
            Of course, our faith has to be translated into action and
into life itself. That is the role of our human works which are also
indispensable. For faith without works, as St. James again said, is
dead.
            We have to learn how to begin and end everything that we
do with God. This is what is meant in that liturgical prayer: “Ut
cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat and per te
coepta finiatur,” that all our prayers and acts may always begin with
you (God) and through you are completed.
            This should be the normal way of behaving, for without
God, without faith, no matter how brilliant our acts may be according
to human standards, they simply will not bring us to our proper end.
In fact, they may even pose a danger to us.
            This proper understanding of the relation between our
faith and our works has to be taught and spread far and wide, starting
with the family and the schools and in all other levels of our
society.
 

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