February 21, 2020
by Mark Latta
Creighton University's School of Dentistry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time

James 2:14-24, 26
Psalms 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Mark 8:34--9:1

Praying Ordinary Time

Today’s readings offer Christian believers clear and unambiguous guidance in our spiritual lives. They however are challenging in many ways to our ways of living and looking at the world.

The reading from the Second letter of James is often challenged as contrary to the teachings of Jesus who teaches us that only He was the “way, truth and life” for salvation. The statement that James makes about faith and works: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” can be particularly tricky. This has led some to think that he was proposing that salvation could be achieved by works alone.

Certainly, James is not proposing that we can be justified by works because there can be no good activity for the Kingdom of God without already having a faith and trust in God. He is not saying that faith without works is not sufficient for salvation either -- he means that true faith is actionable, or otherwise that faith is dead. He is saying that genuine faith in God has a nature to be expressed in acts of love. James is not suggesting we use works instead of faith in Christ, or even the we do works in addition to faith in Christ. His assumption is that we will do works for the benefit of others because of our faith in Christ. James is sharing his conviction that we are responsible for caring for each other as believers in Jesus Christ. And our belief must lead to decisions for practical action.

This decision to act includes the call to follow Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel Christ makes the choice very clear in His call to follow Him: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” So today, as we follow our faith and the call Jesus has for us, what practical action is the Holy Spirit presenting to us to serve God’s Kingdom?

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