Today’s second reading is from the most well known part of the letter of St. James. It is his passage on faith and works, particularly the necessity of works of charity to allow for the living out of our faith. Some of you may know that this is one of the biggest theological points of contention between Catholics (traditional Christianity) versus some lines of Protestantism. I do not really think that’s a debate worth having to be honest, as I do not think one can faithfully read scripture without seeing the necessity of faith and works together.
I will point out that this particular passage is difficult. It isn’t difficult theologically or intellectually, it is difficult in practice. I think when people claim to have a theological problem with it, it is only because they have a practical problem first. It is difficult to allow this faith to demand something of us. It is difficult to believe that my salvation really is tied up with how I treat the poorer people in my life, whether they be poor in money, in love, in intelligence, etc. It is difficult to believe that my life and my salvation must be made that vulnerable to another person.
I love the line from Chesterton who said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” No one is claiming that someone like Mother Theresa, St. Catherine or St. Francis had a faith that caused for smooth sailing through life. We call them Saints and holy heroes because they came up against the difficult truth of Christianity and were courageous! Courage, my friends! Courage is the virtue we need for our times. Courage of the intellect and courage of the will. In this reading, courage of the intellect can be called faith and courage of the will can be our works of love.