Friday, February 21, 2014

Afternoon meditation: the Works of Faith

Today's readings give us the punchiest (not to mention most controversial) line in Scripture: "faith without works is dead!" The flip side, which we don't often hear, is about works without faith. What are they?

You might say it depends; that there are plenty of fine and praiseworthy accomplishments that seem to have no connection at all to faith, but do wonders for the human race.

True enough. The "brother or sister who has nothing to wear and no food for the day" is right to welcome a good work in the form of a hot meal or warm coat, without verifying the faith (or lack thereof) that might have inspired the giver.

US Bishops' prayer intention for Friday fasting: We
ask martyrs who have died for Christ to intercede for
people  around the world who suffer persecution
so that they can continue to witness to the faith.
In the light of today's Gospel ("follow me"), I am reminded that faith directs our attention not to the job to be done, but to the persons involved--starting with Jesus, who made himself the hungry, thirsty, naked one ("you did it for me…"). A faith that keeps me focused on "works" while giving me permission to ignore human beings is pseudo-faith, a facsimile, a fraud. It's worse than dead: it's deceptive.

Today's readings remind me that we are here on earth to learn to love. Not to get something done, not even the job of spreading the Gospel.

The actual Gospel is spread by our manifesting Jesus in an effective way; making him truly, really and substantially present in ourselves, through the gift of self.

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