Monday, September 14, 2009

Faith in action

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.
Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called "the friend of God."
James 2:14-24

True, Christ redeemed us once and for all on the cross. We can't do ANYTHING to earn His love or make Him love us less. His gift of faith to us has us believe in this.
So what else does our faith compel us to do once we believe and seek that personal relationship with Christ?

According to the St. James in the scripture above, we would be useless without acting out our faith. Our faith and love of Christ drives us to show mercy, kindness and compassion to others. If we didn't, what kind of witness would we be for Christ?

Who would be curious to know Christ if we didn't reflect His goodness and put to death our fleshly desires to serve only ourselves?

Catholics are many times misunderstood by non-Catholics (and many uninformed Catholics!) in that they believe we think our works will get us into heaven. If we light this candle or say ten rosaries then we'll earn a better place in eternity. Nothing could be further from the truth!!

Of course, meditating on the Gospels (which is what the rosary is all about- completely scriptural) can bring us into closer union with Jesus. But if all we do is pray the rosary every time we hear about a neighbor in need or children starving in a third world country, then we're not living out our faith very well. If we are physically incapacitated and unable to act out our faith, there is the beauty of redemptive suffering, aka "offering it up."

Here's an excerpt from Mike Yankoski's book, MY 30 DAYS UNDER THE OVERPASS - a terrific and thought-provoking book.

Flip on tonight's news or go to a news blog and you'll learn all about the wretched things that are going on in our world-famines, epidemics, earthquakes, hurricanes, rapes, beatings, political chaos, slavery, human trafficking, just to name a few. When you look at all of it, it's enough to make you feel really, really small, like there's no way you can make an impact.

Well, I want to let you in on a little secret: The world is not yours to change. None of us is big enough, influential enough, or powerful enough to end any one of the world's major issues. The only person powerful enough to eradicate poverty or cure all disease or stop earthquakes is Jesus. But He didn't do any of that. Jesus, in His wisdom, knew He couldn't just come down here and fix everything for us; He knew we wouldn't learn anything that way. Instead, He showed us how to live by spending thirty years on earth, setting the ultimate example for us to follow. He didn't end poverty. Instead, He reminded us that "you always have the poor with you" (see Mark 14:7).

But that doesn't mean Jesus did nothing to help the poor, nothing to reach out to those whom everyone else shunned. Instead, He lived with them, listened to them, ate with them (sometimes He brought the food), partied with them, healed them, wept and laughed with them ...

Same with us. Yes, the world is messed up. There are a lot of hurting people and a lot of important issues. You can't end poverty, stop earthquakes, or feed every person on the planet. But that's no excuse to do nothing. If you're a Christian, loving other people is not a "calling" you can patiently discover or wait for God to reveal to you. It's a direct, nonnegotiable command.

Some of us are called to go and be in the places where the biggest problems are. Some of us need to be there, working, helping, serving, not only on two-week trips in the summer but for years at a time, even lifetimes at a time. But some of us aren't supposed to do that now. It's not the right season. We're in school or providing for our family or training to go somewhere in the future.

But don't buy into the lie that "ministry" only happens overseas or during summer trips or on Tuesday evenings at small group or Sunday mornings at church. Ministry is about people in need, and those people are all around.

How can God use you to impact, change, affect, influence, love on, and meet the needs of the people all around you? What's holding you back? How can you break out of the fear and questions that keep you from "loving your neighbor as yourself"? (see Matthew 22:37-40).

First, pray for the Holy Spirit to stir up the gifts implanted in you from the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. It won't be long before you are called to action.

Our Christian faith is founded on works of mercy from the King Himself. He performed many "works" throughout His time on earth as an example for us to follow - the most significant was His Passion and death on the Cross.

Our brothers and sisters in need depend on us to help them. To whom much is given much is expected (and we do have much compared with the third world countries!!). Sometimes, we who have much are worse off spiritually because we are comfortable.

Have you seen the faith of those in impoverished nations such as Africa, Peru and Haiti? Christianity is growing and thriving among many even though they lack much materially.

The Lord is calling us to step outside our comfort zone this week and every week, as He called the first apostles and many thereafter.

Pray and discern His voice within for guidance. How do we discern if the desire we have to serve or begin ministry is from God?

In her book FULL OF GRACE, Johnnette Benkovic lays out some guidelines of discernment: "Generally speaking, if the prompting conforms with the ordinary acts of charity for people in our state of life who are attempting to live a life of holiness, and if there is nothing immoral or questionable about the action, we should carry it out with gratitude that God has asked us to serve Him in this way. If, however, the prompting is out of the ordinary and is potentially life-changing in scope, we should put it to the test by evaluating it against several criteria."

  1. First of all, is it fully in line with Sacred Scripture, the Ten Commandments, and the teachings of the Church? There is no contradiction in god - He will never go against His own precepts. If a particular action is in opposition to Sacred Scripture, it is not of God. If it goes against one of the Commandments, it is not of God. If it opposes a teaching of the Church, it is not of God. If it is an uncharitable act, it is not of God. If it opposes the natural law, it is not of God. If it violates legitimate civil authority, it is not of God.
  2. Second, is the prompting proceeding from virtue or the flesh? Another way to ask this question is, "What is my motivation? Selfish gain, pride or charity and love of God?
  3. Third, has this prompting been confirmed in other ways?
  4. Has the prompting withstood the test of time?
  5. Am I going through an emotionally difficult time, or am I suffering from mental instability?
  6. Have I sought the counsel of others? Few people are in a position to make major decisions on their own; (On his journey, Mike Yankoski consulted friends, pastor and spiritual director before heading out on the streets to live)
  7. Is the supposed prompting or inspiration of grace in conformity with my state in life? We must weigh the promptings we receive against our state in life. If we sense that God is asking us to participate in certain activities, go into a particular ministry, or become a member of a certain apostolate, it will not take away from the obligations of our life in other areas. There may be sacrifice, but there will not be conflict.

Not many words from me, but much wisdom from the Bible and a wise man and woman of God.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ reign in your heart, your mind and on your lips today and always.