February 21, 2020
(St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church)
St. James wrote, “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” Jas_2:14-24,26
Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “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. . . . He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.” Mk_8:34–9:1
Today’s Scriptures are speaking to us about action in our faith. And yet, action itself can be a pretty subjective term. Is not, the paralytic who prays, day and night for his brothers and sisters, not, just as active in his faith as the young missionary who risks his life in a disease-ravaged land, to bring people to God?
You see, sometimes, the beauty of our faith is in the eye of the beholder. We can judge and condemn, or we can seek the good in others and inspire greatness. But in the end, the only true beholder that really matters in judging our faith, is God.
So we might be thinking, after hearing today’s readings, that both Jesus and St. James were being a little harsh on the actions of their listeners: James, for calling them “an ignoramus,” and Jesus for asking them for their very life itself.
But, as in all the Scriptures, it’s always important to recognize the perspective of their time and culture and situation, and then, to convert their basic message into how it fits in our own lives.
And it’s funny, because, we have a hand-full of common, non-religious idioms, or cliches that give us the same message, like: “Put your money where your mouth is;” or, “Walk the talk;” or, “Let’s make it real;” or, as St. James tells us: “Faith without works is dead.”
Both Jesus and James were facing people, who, when offered the prospect of a heavenly kingdom, of eternal life and of heavenly bliss, thought that they could sneak in a free ride – just by having the right colored ticket. The ticket called “Faith.”
You see, just because I’m wearing a crucifix, or have a ‘Jesus fish’ on my bumper, or even go to Mass every week, it doesn’t mean that I actually understand – what it means – to have the faith – that it will take to get me into heaven. Because, behind those mere symbols, I may still be despising my Priest, or my President, or even my brothers and sisters – just because they’re different from me.
And, you see, THERE is the Cross that Jesus was speaking about.
THERE is the Life that we have to sacrifice – for the sake of “the other.”
And THERE is the ACTION that makes our Faith – actually BE – Real!
When we’re willing, and DO, act pleasantly to those whom we’ve judged aren’t worth it; when we’re willing, and DO, share God’s love with others, and not just keep it to ourselves; when we truly understand that beyond the humility, beyond the pain, beyond all those fancy words that we use in our faith for what Jesus did, that it was ONLY out of PURE Love for us, us miserable sinners, that drove Him to the point of death; how can we not, in the least, feel the same and DO the same for every last human being on the earth: the aged and the unborn, the refugee, the incarcerated, the billionaire and the pauper?
And when we DO, when our love can grow to THAT point, then we WILL see – the “Power of the Kingdom,” here and now, before we ever taste death.
And that “Power” – is called Love!
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