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Friday – Sixth Week – OT2
Readings: Jam 2:14-24, 26; Mk 8:34 – 9:1
Reading 1 (Jam 2:14-24, 26):
What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
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.
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.
Gospel (Mk 8:34 – 9:1):
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.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
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.”
I. THEME: People must receive the result of their lifestyle.
There are two main lifestyles in life: one according to God’s will and one according to one’s own will. Human beings have freedom to choose to live between these two lifestyles; but to choose the way is to accept the result of that lifestyle.
Today readings rotate around these two lifestyles and their results. In the first reading, the author of the Letter of James emphasized that the believers must express their faith in works, because faith without works is death. In the Gospel, Jesus described the way for those who want to be his disciples: they must deny themselves, carry their cross daily and follow him. Though this is the way of pain and suffering, it brings good result for those who follow, both in this life and the life to come.
1/ Reading I: Faith without works is death.
1.1/ Both faith and works are required.
(1) The importance of faith: Both Jesus and St. Paul emphasized the importance of faith. According to Jesus, the condition to inherit the eternal life is to believe in him, sent by the Father (Cf. Jn 6:39-40). St. Paul emphasized: people are justified by their faith in Christ, not by keeping the Law (Cf. Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16).
(2) The importance of works: The author of James paid a special attention to works: “What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 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 them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?”” And he concluded: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Jesus and Paul didn’t say works aren’t needed, but they wanted to highlight the necessary of faith. People need to believe right before they can act right. Jesus also emphasized the necessary of works in another place, “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 7:21).
1.2/ The faith of Abraham was proved by his work: Many people spent their time and effort in discussion of this theological argument: “Are people justified by faith in Christ or by their works of the law?” There are three main opinions.
(1) Many Jews and those who followed Pelagianism believed people can be justified by carefully keeping the law or doing good works.
(2) St. Paul believed people are justified by faith; but not only faith as Luther and his followers misunderstood Paul. St. Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, wanted to say that people can’t be righteous by the law, because none can perfectly keep the law. This is the reason why Christ must come to take away people’s sins. If one carefully read Pauline Letters, he will recognize that Paul mentioned the need to avoid sins, to practice virtues and to do good deeds. Paul himself tirelessly worked to spread the Gospel.
(3) The author of James believed people are justified by both faith and works. Both Paul and James illustrated the exemplar of Abraham. Paul said: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (Rom 4:2-3). James said: “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 works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God.”
The correct and clear answer is by James. The author emphasized on both faith and works: “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”
2/ Gospel: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
2.1/ The lifestyle according to God: Jesus said to his people and disciples: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
(1) To deny oneself: is to forfeit his will, interest and individual lifestyle to accept Jesus’ lifestyle. This is the most difficult thing to give up because it requires people to give up almost everything which they like.
(2) To take up one’s cross: To follow God is to choose His lifestyle, and Christ’s lifestyle is the way of the cross. He requires people to give up their selfish and safe lifestyle, to accept the sacrificial lifestyle to benefit themselves and others, and to completely believe in God.
2.2/ The result of this lifestyle: There is a contradictory in life which Jesus highlighted when he said: “For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” We can clearly see this in reality: Those who try to protect their life according to human way, will loose their life. In opposition, those who are ready to sacrifice their life for others, will live and fully live. For example, when parents are ready to accept suffering for their children, their family will be happy and united. In oppostion, when parents are selfish and worry about themselves, their family will be broken up and all members of their family shall suffer.
Those who refuse to live according to God’s way, must endure bad results which happen not only in this life but also the life to come, as Jesus declared: “For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To receive good results for ourselves and others, we must deny the lifestyle according to our interest to accept the sacrificial life according to God.
– To believe in God and Christ means to keep what they teach us. We can’t believe God only in our hearts or on our lips.
– The way of the cross is the saving way. Jesus went through the way of the cross and he brings eternal life for humankind. We must also go through that way to benefit ourselves and others.