Peace and grace to you!
In St. James’ letter there is a strong emphasis on the concrete connection between faith and works. We know that we cannot achieve our own salvation through our own works, but we do know that God calls us to be co-workers with him by putting our faith into action. Our faith in action is one way in which the Word becomes flesh– today.
In the Gospel, Peter opposes Jesus for saying that he must suffer and die. Peter is then rebuked by Jesus because he doesn’t understand that Jesus’ commitment to God’s plan for our salvation is total and complete. Jesus alone must accomplish the saving work of our redemption and his love for God and the human race will not allow him to falter in it!
Jesus then tells the crowd and his disciples that anyone who wishes to follow him must make the same commitment. They must give their lives for the sake of the Gospel and hold nothing back. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, we read in the Acts of the Apostles the many good works of Peter. We also know that he practiced what he preached because he gave his life for the sake of the Gospel.
There is much for us to think about here. It is not enough to come to Church on Sunday, take our place in a pew and put some money in the collection basket. It is very important that we do this but there is much more!
Some among us will be called by God to serve him by close imitation of Jesus in giving their whole lives in service of the Gospel. They will be priests and religious Brothers and Sisters. They must make a total commitment and God will reward them!
Most of us however, can begin to think more deeply about how we serve in our own faith community. There are many ministries and needs within each parish. There are lots of opportunities for us to put our faith into action. Each one must seek and find the one, or many, that God calls them to.
What happens when we put our faith into action? We grow in faith and joy but most importantly of all, we grow closer in our identity with Christ. Sometimes it feels uncomfortable at first because it’s new and we have to learn new things—even about ourselves. Sometimes it means we may be ridiculed by a person we are trying to serve (ask those at St. Vincent DePaul). More often than anything else, we encounter God’s presence in our lives at ever deeper levels and we experience the living goodness of God working through our lives and the lives of others. Through joy and struggle we become seasoned in our faith which tells us we are on a short journey to an eternal reward. Giving of our resources and ourselves is not about a reward in this life but is about discipleship. Our reward will be in the life to come. Not because we deserve it or can merit it on our own, but because God is good and loves a cheerful giver.
May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter