Saturday, September 12, 2009

Christianity is Not Easy: A Reflection on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The gospels--the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--are sometimes called the "Good News." Sometimes you have to wonder what is so good about it. There is nothing in those books that promises an easy life ahead of you if you follow Jesus. In fact, the opposite is promised.

In this weekend's gospel reading from Mark 8: 27-35, Jesus actually tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
That does not sound like an easy road to take. We must give up our lives. We must take up our cross. Being a follower of Jesus is much, much more than just saying, "Jesus, I take you as my personal Lord and Savior."
Yet there are some protestant denominations that teach sola fide--salvation by faith alone. At it's root, sola fide teaches that all we have to do is have faith in Jesus and we are saved. They do have it right that there is nothing we can do to secure our salvation for ourselves. We are not saved by our works. They seem to be confused and think that Catholics teach we are saved by our works alone when nothing is further from the truth. We teach that we are saved through our our faith AND works.

We MUST cooperate with God's grace and have an interior change. We we do that we will do the works that we are designed to do. I'm sure I'm going to butcher my theology but faith and works work together. In James we are told, "What good is it, my brothers and sisters,if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" What good is it if we say "Yes Jesus!" but we don't help our brother? Do we truly have that conversion of heart? The passage continues, "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Some protestant reformers did not like the book of James. Some even called for it's removal from the Bible calling it the "epistle of straw." Who wouldn't rather have salvation by faith alone? Isn't it easier to say, "Lord, Lord" than to have that daily conversion--that daily battle?

We as Catholics must beware not to confuse "works" with thing that we are called to do such as attend Sunday mass or go to confession at least once a year. Doing those things gives us grace we need to carry out the works we are really called to. We cannot just be Christian while in church. We are called to carry the gospel out into the world. We are called to live it. We are called to "demonstrate [our] faith to you from [our] works."

The good news comes in when we cooperate with God's grace and demonstrate faith and works together. That is when we will truly see Christ in each of us. It is through faith and works that we are saved.

Personally, I think the whole sola fide debate is silly. So much of it seems to come from different definitions for the same words. What do you think? Am I wrong to think that through God's grace we are transformed and by cooperating with His grace we are going to do those works??

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