Sunday, February 14, 2016

On Faith and Works

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Matthew 15:21-28 KJV

I find these verses slightly reassuring and also very relevant to our times today.

In this passage from today's daily reading we see that this Canaanite woman comes to Jesus because her daughter was being vexed by a demon. At first Jesus simply ignores her, but through her faith she keeps asking for His help. Finally, even after telling her that He was here for only the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus helps the woman and saves her daughter.

How many these days ask God for a miracle once and then completely shun Him because they didn't what they wanted? Their faith has no real substance, and I daresay they have no real faith.

Through her faith the Canaanite woman does a wonderful work; she perseveres and keeps asking. For both she is rewarded. She has great faith, but how faithful would she have been had she simply given up? This is almost a perfect example of how if our faith is strong then it will produce works. Likewise, if our faith is lacking then we produce no good works.

Now, many people assume that a works based salvation automatically precludes a faith based salvation, but that is not true. St. James tells us that faith without works is dead. But, if faith is sufficient for salvation then what need is there for works? Doing good works shows our faith and can strengthen it in kind.

Good works can be anything from praying and reading scripture daily, giving alms, partaking of the sacraments (which have been given to us as an outpouring of God's grace), feeding the homeless, and a plethora of other things. These works don't get us into Heaven just by their merits of being good works; works without faith profits us nothing. No, these works WITH faith are what helps us get into Heaven.

Through out the Gospels we see where the faithful do works to show their faith, even in parables such as the one with the workers who are given talents; one goes and doubles his money, another triples his money, but the last hides his and is later reprimanded for doing so.

Works and faith are so intertwined that one cannot find one without the other. The Ethiopian who needs St. Philip to interpret the scriptures for him asks what he must do to be saved, and St. Philip says believe AND be baptized. We see that simple belief is not enough (not everyone who cries "Lord, Lord" shall be saved), but belief with works (being baptized) is enough.

The Canaanite woman saw that her one off of asking didn't show sufficient faith, she kept working by asking repeatedly. Jesus acknowledges her great faith - which was represented by her work - and saves her daughter.

May my faith be as strong as this woman's.

Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.
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