Empty Faith versus Active Virtue

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

St. James is relentless in his contention that faith, religion, prayer and worship are empty without acts that complement them in our daily life. This is not to say that the acts have any impact on our salvation. Our salvation is a free gift which comes through faith and faith alone. We act not to save ourselves but simply to express our love for God and for neighbor, the two great commandments. There are so many adages that back up this contention, adages such as "The proof is in the pudding."

All of this brings me back to one of my favorite perspectives; namely, I would rather you show me your virtue than your values. Values are nebulous; like the clouds in the sky, they appear to be concrete objects in the sky. Yet anyone who has flown in an airplane knows that clouds are simply vapor and nothing more. Virtue on the other hand is expressed in concrete actions, actions which impact our surroundings. One can say that Christian charity is a value they hold dear. However, until the charity is expressed in acts of unconditional and unselfish love, it is simply a word that trips off the tongue all too easily.

St. James makes the distinction between a hearer and a doer. Those who hear the Gospel are evangelized by it. That evangelization is only vapor until it finds its expression in action. The Gospel is filled with moral imperatives that cannot be ignored by people of faith. The Gospel of Luke makes this point very graphically. First St. Luke writes about Mary of Bethany choosing the better part by sitting at his feet to listen to his words. Immediately thereafter he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Mary is praised for listening; the Samaritan is held up as an example. Jesus tells us to go and do likewise. CUSANS are called to fulfill this mandate by their willingness to offer their sufferings and frustrations for the sake of others and by the act of supporting their fellow group members in their trials. To borrow another adage, that's where "the rubber hits the road."

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