Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use Words.
This quote, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, could be a way to summarize the invitation put to us in the letter from St. James which is our second reading for today. “Faith is like that: if good deeds do not go with it, it is quite dead.”
The issue of faith and works caused hot debate in the early Christian community. There were those who believed that keeping the law was primary and good works were secondary. We see St. Paul insisting that salvation is a free gift from God, unmerited by us. We share this gift through our faith in Jesus Christ and we do not earn it by what we do.
James’ letter teaches that you have to show your faith by the way you live. It reminds us that we cannot just listen to the Word and then do nothing. To be Christian implies acting on the Word in love and service of others.
Our quote from St. Francis is also a very succinct way of answering the question posed by Jesus to his disciples: “But you, who do you say that I am?”
I think that as followers of Jesus, it is in the way that we live that we say who we believe Jesus to be. The challenge for me is to combine faith and good works to answer the query of Jesus in the way that Peter does – “You are the Christ” – and to do so not just in words but in action and in a form that is practical and makes sense to the world in which we live today.
At the end of our gospel text Jesus teaches his disciples that following him would be hard at times, he reminds us that the cross is part of being a disciple. Carrying our cross can be expressed in many ways and usually implies some change on our part.
During this month of September, Christian churches are focusing on the care of creation. Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si’, calls for an ecological conversion at all levels of society whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ are reflected in our relationships with the world and its people. There is an invitation here to show our faith in action and to say who Christ is by the way we respond to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. There is an urgency about this, highlighted by the climate talks being held soon in the UK.
We can all make a difference and while we are doing so, perhaps we could spend more time appreciating nature, the wonder of God in the world around us?