Our faith and our works
There is, of course, a close relation between our faith and our works. As St. James said in his letter, “show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (2,18)
He said earlier that faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. It profits a man nothing if he says he has faith but has no works. “Can his faith save him?,” he asked. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving him the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” So, faith if real will always be shown in works.
But we need to be clear about one thing in this relationship. While there is a close relationship between our faith and our works, they cannot be held equal and identical. Faith is faith which is a supernatural gift. While our works are a product of our own effort which can never be made supernatural unless done with faith or with God’s grace.
To think that we can achieve sanctity by faith alone is to fall into an anomaly or a heresy called Gnosticism. While to consider that sanctity can be attained through our human works alone without the faith is to fall into the heresy of Pelagianism. These two heresies have been recently denounced in that document of Pope Francis, “Gaudete et exsultate.”
Let us remember that there are abundant pieces of evidence of people who think and say they are holy or saintly but their evil works betray their fervent profession of their faith. And also, there are people who do a lot of good works and yet they are not holy because their works lead them to the sins of pride, vanity, greed and the like.
Yes, we should have as strong and deep a faith as possible and it should be somehow verified by our works. Our faith should so inspire and shape our life and everything in it, especially our works, should show that faith.
Our works, to be truly good and capable of sanctifying us, should be sanctified first of all by our faith and the grace of God. Without the latter, our works would only be apparently good and can occasion many other dangers to us.
We need to see to it that we take care of growing in our faith and of making it affect, as in inspiring and shaping, all the aspects of our life. We can never say we have enough faith. Our life can never be made supernatural, nor can it be conformed to Christ who is the pattern of our humanity, if it is not a life shaped by our faith.
Of course, our faith has to be translated into action and into life itself. That is the role of our human works which are also indispensable. For faith without works, as St. James again said, is dead.
We have to learn how to begin and end everything that we do with God. This is what is meant in that liturgical prayer: “Ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat and per te coepta finiatur,” that all our prayers and acts may always begin with you (God) and through you are completed.
This should be the normal way of behaving, for without God, without faith, no matter how brilliant our acts may be according to human standards, they simply will not bring us to our proper end. In fact, they may even pose as a danger to us.
This proper understanding of the relation between our faith and our works has to be taught and spread far and wide, starting with the family and the schools and in all other levels of our society.*
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