Pastor’s Notes for September 15-16, 2018
“Faith Alone” (sola fide) is an often quoted tag line by our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. By this, they mean that one’s own works or deeds play no meaningful or substantive role in one’s salvation. We Catholic Christians have never held to such a belief. It was put forth for the first time in Christian history by Martin Luther just before 1517. As such, Catholics are sometimes accused of believing we ‘earn our salvation’ by our deeds and works contrary to what the Scriptures clearly state. Well, no. Catholics do not believe in earning salvation by our deed or works. We cannot do so. Our salvation comes from Christ. Yet, we do believe we can cooperate with God’s free gift of Grace within us and manifest our Faith in Christ by our outward deeds and works. And we believe these outward deeds and works are beneficial for our salvation.
St Paul speaks quite forcefully and persistently about the importance of faith as necessary for salvation. St Paul speaks quite forcefully and persistently about the lack of value of ‘works (of the Law)’ for salvation. By works, St Paul was referring specifically to works of the Mosaic Law (Old Testament Jewish practices in terms of Temple sacrifice, Circumcision, dietary practices and the like). A broader reading of those locations where he mentions ‘works’ makes this truth clear. St Paul’s Letter to the Romans is Paul’s theological masterpiece. In it, he speaks most eloquently about the role of faith for the Christian salvation. “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Roman 3:28). This verse is often cited to substantiate “Faith Alone.” But the word “alone” is noticeably absent. Faith indeed justifies, but that does not rule out any role for an active lived faith manifested by outward works of charity and mercy for Christ in others motivated by God’s Grace.
I mention this since our weekend readings include a selection from the Letter of James as our second reading. It is in the James that we find the only instance in Scriptures where the phrase ‘faith alone’ is found. “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Is it any wonder why Martin Luther lobbied to remove the Letter of James entirely from the Canon of the Bible (something he in fact did with seven other Old Testament books)?
Catholics don’t earn salvation by our deeds, but faith apart from deeds too leaves one lacking salvation. There are several great verse-by-verse explanations to this common objection on the Catholic Answers website:
If you ever need solid Catholic responses to challenges to our Catholic Christian Faith, I would highly recommend Catholic Answers found at www.catholic.com.
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Last Altar Server Training to be held in church on Thursday, Sept 20 (3:15-4:30p)
Parish Pitch-In Picnic after the 5p Mass next Saturday, Sept 22.
Information session for the Sacrament of Confirmation Preparation Program for all sophomores will be on Sunday, Sept 30 at 4:30p in the Cafeteria.
Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Pray for us.
~ Fr. Gries