The Secret to Understanding the Relationship Between Faith and Works…is….
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned —but if I have no love, this does me no good. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (TEV)
18 But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith. James 2:18 (NJB)
111 Your faith is not operative enough; it seems that you are over-pious, rather than a man who is struggling to be a saint. (1)
For centuries, the church has fought over the issue of how faith and works are seen in our salvation. It is not a new fight, a new argument, and historically, it is like the mystery of a pendulum. In simpler words, we see the church, and even denominations of the church swing from one extreme to the other. First the extreme of trying to save ourselves through our work, trying to find the way to discipline ourselves, forcing ourselves to do things, so that we can prove the change. As we fail (and often miserably at this) we go to the other extreme, rediscovering that we are saved by faith alone, and not by our own merit. The pendulum then swings to the extent that we consider our works and our faith completely separate. We heavily criticize any attempt of spiritual discipline, even if it doesn’t involve us.
If we take a breath, if we ignore the pendulum swing, we see the common error, and possibly see the solution that James points out, that the comment from Escriva touches upon. The struggle to be a saint is not about our appearing pious or holy, It is not about what we do to make ourselves good, or even just look good. It is not about having miraculous powers (though those may appear), it isn’t about having the right words, or even being able to make the wrong words seem right. Knowledge fails as well as faith. We can be quite successful by making our selves into martyrs, annoying the hell out of everyone.
If those things aren’t birthed in love, they are worthless, and that is where both faith and works are born, and where they find their synergy. Where their find themselves working together, energized by the Holy Spirit together. For both faith and works are not native to us, but rather are the work of God in us, transforming us, Neither faith nor works save us, if they are faith generated within us, apart from the Holy Spirit, or works that we are doing to gain God’s favor. That is why St. Josemaria talks about it places operative in something other that being over-pious.
For being pious, or holy is not about what we do, it’s about being broken enough to let God do what He would do, in us. It is about being humble enough to remember that we are in God’s hands, not our own, It is there, in God’s hands, where faith is strengthened, where we find the love that is the power source for the miraculous, that sustains our trust/faith in God, that finds the desire and ability to sacrifice for others. It is that love that testifies of Christ, even until our death.
To live as a saint, is to live within the glory of God, within His love, firmly secure in His embrace of our hearts, our minds, our very lives.
It’s a struggle, not to be pious, not to prove our devotion, those aren’t the struggles of being a saint.
The struggle of the saint is to dwell in the love, to give up our rights, our ideas, our quests to prove ourselves worthy. Instead, the struggle is to see His work in our lives, as He takes charge, to see His will be done, to depend on Him for sustenance, and to know mercy – both know we’ve received it, and to know we can show it. To get through times of temptation, and to know we are protected and delivered from evil.
To be be able to say with our whole heart – that to God belongs all the kingdoms of our lives, that He is the power that establishes and sustains us, that to Him all glory belongs……
Faith and works? They come from knowing God is God, and we are His beloved people.
It’s that simple.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 664-665). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.