Faith Alone??

September 16, 2018

I am happy to announce that Susana Nieto is returning to our parish as Director of Faith Formation. Susana’s religious community moved away from the LA area three years ago but have given her special permission to return. Please give her a warm welcome back to SMT.

“Can faith save him? If faith does not have works, it is dead.” This well-known verse from the letter of St. James seems contrary to a well-known passage of St. Paul: “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28). Unfortunately, Sola fide, also known as justification by faith alone, was one of the main causes of the Reformation which formed Protestant churches apart from the Catholic Church. It is a very complex theological issue.

Yes, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for us. There is nothing humanity could do to gain salvation. God so loved us that He gave His only begotten son and through Jesus we gain access to salvation.

However, some people believed that because they were saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ, there was nothing more they needed to do. They could continue in their evil ways in this world and yet still be saved by their faith alone.

It is this false sense of salvation that St. James addresses, “Can faith save him?” or “Faith without works is dead.” If a person has true faith, then that faith will produce good works. If “faith” doesn’t produce any good works, then there is no faith. Good works cannot be used to justify salvation. Good works are the necessary fruit of true faith.

A modern example of what St. James addresses is “I am spiritual but not religious.” True faith in God must be demonstrated externally in both worship and good works. Otherwise, the root or source of that “spirituality” is non-existent.

It is a danger to believe that good works alone can be done without faith, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me.”

Like the healing of the deaf-mute man, first we must hear before we can speak. As our faith answers Christ’s question, “Who do you say that I am?” may our faith express itself in works of love.

Kathryn Richards