Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the last several weeks we have been reflecting on how to grow in our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. And in particular the Word of God has challenged us on putting into action the faith we have in God as our Lord and savior. To put our faith into action can mean many things, and it is something that sounds nice but is rather vague if we are not careful in knowing what we are talking about. So what does it mean “to put our faith into action”? And in particular to put it into action in the public sphere, not just in our private lives? The Church has thought about this question from the very beginning and for many years, and we call these reflections “the Social Teachings of the Church.” The Social Teachings of the Church are a series of themes that originate in the teachings and life of Jesus that show us how to treat other people – especially the poor and the vulnerable- but which also challenge us to work together to apply the teachings of Jesus into social action that transforms our society by loving actions and works of mercy. Last week the Letter of St. James to us that faith that is not put into action is no faith at all – it is thoroughly lifeless. In order for our faith to be real and authentic it needs to be put into action. But to do so means that several things must take place in the life of the disciple.
First of all, to put your faith into action means you have to be able to apply the teachings of Christ to your daily decisions as well as to the action of the Church as a whole. This means that the role of conscience is very important. What is a
conscience? Conscience is called “the heart” in the Bible, and it is the spiritual ability in all of us to first know the difference between the good things we need to do and the bad things we need to avoid, and secondly to act in such a way that we choose the good and reject the evil. The problem is that our minds and our wills are clouded and weakened by original sin and we have a tendency to confuse good from evil or we make erroneous judgments or we are just selfish and greedy. Our consciences can get it wrong and lead us into sin. The only remedy for this is our Baptism, which clears out original sin, and growing in our faith so that we make good decisions and can tell good from evil. This is why we need the Sacrament of the Eucharist in Holy Communion, daily prayer, study of Scripture and unity in the community in putting faith into action. Otherwise we easily become sinful, selfish and isolated and miserable. We can only change ourselves and our society if we form our consciences according to the faith of the Church.
Today the Letter of St. James says this to us, “Where there are jealousy and strife, there also are inconstancy and all kinds of vile behavior. Wisdom from above, by contrast, is first of all innocent. It is also peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and kindly deeds that are its fruit, impartial and sincere. The harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” He reminds us that only when we are united as a community can we be effective in promoting social justice in our society. He first of all means that our families need to be united. This means that we need to stop fighting with each other and hurting each other. A Christian home should be a sanctuary of peace and kindness. If there are any disagreements, we need to find ways of resolving them in our families without getting into fights. Oftentimes our fighting prevents us from serving the needs of the community because we’re so preoccupied with getting our way. This goes against the teachings of Christ. We hear Jesus condemn this attitude in the Gospel when he asks the disciples what they were arguing about on their way home. They were ashamed and told him that they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. And this is after He just told them that he was going to suffer and die on the cross for our salvation! He rebukes them and tells us that whoever wants to be the greatest in the kingdom must be “the servant of all.” And it starts in our families. But it’s true in our parish community as well. St. James asks us: How are you serving the needs of others and putting your faith into practice? Many of the problems in our world continue because Christians are so preoccupied with themselves that they do not hear the call to practice social justice.
Brothers and sisters, we know that only Jesus is the savior of the world. You and I alone can’t do everything, but we can have united families and parishes strong
in the faith so that we are free to practice social justice – our faith that is put into action to make a change in the world that gives glory to God. We receive the strength and nourishment from the Body and Blood of Christ in order to accomplish this task entrusted to us.