24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
By faith we mean our loving response to God who reveals his love to us in Jesus. And St James, in that second reading, as always is spot on. Faith without good works is not credible.
Again the useful example of a husband and wife. The husband can say I love my wife, I respond with love to her love, but if there is no sign of that love, if he never speaks to her, never listens to her, never makes any sacrifices for her, you would be right to doubt his love. But it goes even deeper than that. If he truly loves his wife, his life will be transformed. It wont just be a question of saying ‘I love you’ every now and then of taking the time to listen or even of remaining faithful out of a sense of obligation. No every aspect of his life will e affected by his love.
In the gospel when Peter say to Jesus ‘you are the Christ’ he is half right. Peter means the promised Messiah, a wonder worker, a man of God who would free Israel from their Roman oppressors. Jesus cuts him short. Gives the disciples strict orders not to say this to anyone. Because what actually awaits Jesus, his destiny as the Christ is grievous suffering, rejection and then resurrection.
This is where James’ teaching on faith and good works is rooted. The work without which faith is dead is the work total self-offering to God and to neighbour. This is the heart of Jesus’ mission. Out of love for God the Father and out of love for us (in response to God the Father’s love for him and for us) Jesus gives himself totally in love. A giving so total it involves his life, everything.
This is also our task, the heart of true faith. Our response in love to the love of God revealed in Jesus is to allow it to transform our lives, so that no part of our life is ever separated from this love, so that no part of our lives fails to reveal this love. It is the work of a lifetime. We all must allow ourselves to grow in love, we must be careful that whilst saying the right things ‘keep warm, eat well’ we provide food and clothes, that whilst claiming to have faith and follow Christ we don’t actually make up our own rules and keep some parts of our life separate from God.
Jesus ’last words in the Gospel today sum up well that faith which is love, of which we catch a glimpse in the sacrament of marriage and to which we are all called. A response of love to love in which everything is gift and everything gain: Anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.