Speak Lord: Of work and faith

Cezanne old woman at prayer

The Second reading on Sunday, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, comes once more from the Letter of St James. Again James reflects on the necessary relationship between faith and action, faith and good works.

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.’

James 2:14-18

Sometimes we might feel we have neither faith to show or good works. But even that can itself be a work of faith, an act of humility, of contrition – of an honest acknowledgement of shortcomings and failings before God and our neighbour. Such a confession can often help others to a new frankness about their situation and needs, and so have them turn afresh to God and neighbour asking for mercy and help.

  • What are your principal good deeds? What helps you to them?
  • Where do you fall short? How might even that become a building block of the Kingdom?

Cezanne Old WomanII

The images are of a painting of an old woman by Cezanne. It is said that the woman was a former religious who lost her faith, and yet she prays the rosary. The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery, London. (c) 2013, Allen Morris

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