Immersed in Christ: February 21, 2020
Friday, Week Six of Ordinary Time
Happy are those who do what the Lord commands.
(Responsorial: Psalm 112)
James 2:14-24, 26 is an argument for saying James wrote late enough to know people were misinterpreting Paul’s teaching about justification by “faith alone,” because he contradicts the exaggerated version of this that makes “works” unnecessary. “It was largely because of this apparent contradiction that Luther wished to exclude James from the canon [list of books in Scripture inspired by God].” 1
James is blunt:
What good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it?... Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
We have no difficulty agreeing with that. But it is commonplace for Christians to accept all sorts of things Jesus taught without even thinking about putting them into practice. What, for example, do people actually do about any words they have heard read or preached at Mass? Do we listen with one hand on the ignition, ready to start up and move in response to what we hear. Is this your own mind set?
Discipleship, being a “student” of Jesus, is not a head trip. Everything he teaches is for living. If we aren’t reading or listening with the question in our minds, “How can I put this into practice?” we won’t get the real point of his words. We will be focusing on some fringe ideas without really confronting his message.
That is why the standard (but not only) form of Christian meditation has three steps: Read, Reflect and Respond. The third step is the key. If Jesus’ words don’t sink roots in us down to the level of decision-making, we are receiving them in “shallow ground.” And if, over time, they don’t make us feel inner conflict because we realize they are being “choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of the world,” their “fruit will not mature.” We are not mature in the faith until we dedicate ourselves to the mission of Christ and of the Church. And the first step into mission is to make our lifestyle bear prophetic witness to the Gospel by “raising eyebrows” in our culture: questions that cannot be answered without it. 2
And James above all is insistent on the ministering love without which our faith is sterile.
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?
This applies even more to supplying spiritual needs by giving expression to our faith, hope and love in physical words and actions in fulfillment of our baptismal consecration as priests.
In Mark 8:34 to 9:1 Jesus simply says two plus two makes four: “What will it profit to gain the whole world and forfeit life itself? What will you give in return for your life?” Those who can add will give him all.
Initiative: Measure your faith by your actions. How strong is it?
1 New Jerome Biblical Commentary. The Lutherans no longer follow Luther in this.
2 Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 4:18.