faith without works

This story will touch and teach you. Tess, an eight years old, was a sweet child with an amazing inner strength. One evening, unknown to anyone, she slipped out of the backdoor of their house and walked six blocks on a very serious self-designed errand. She was going to buy a “miracle” from the local pharmacy.

Earlier that day, she overheard her parents talk about her younger brother, Andrew. He has been very sick for some time now. Her parents brought him to a doctor for treatment, yet despite all the effort, all the tests and all the medicines, Andrew continued to grow sicker. Her parents became desperate and worried.

The medical expenses have already exhausted all the couple’s savings and they had to sell their house and would have to move to a rented apartment. Despite what they’ve done, they still had no solution in sight for Andrew’s sickness. “What we need is a miracle,” Tess overheard her father cry in desperation to her mother. Tess decided she was going to buy a miracle for her brother!

Before going out of the house, Tess went to her bedroom and retrieved a jelly glass jar which was her piggy bank and where she had been saving all the coins. She counted them and all she had was one dollar and eleven cents. “This should be enough to buy a miracle,” she assured herself.

When she got to the pharmacy store, she saw that the pharmacist was busy talking with a well-dressed man. She patiently waited until the pharmacist could attend to her but the conversation was taking a very long time. Now, worried the night was drawing near and that she might not be able to buy her miracle, she finally felt she had to try to distract the pharmacist’s attention. Using one of her coins, she made a sound with it on the glass top of the store counter.

Clearly annoyed by the interruption, the pharmacist turned to her and, with a rather unfriendly voice, asked her “What do you want? Can’t you see I am talking with my brother who travelled all the way from Chicago and we have not seen each other for many years!”

Feeling frightened at being addressed so ungraciously, Tess manage to say “I want to talk to you about my little brother too. He is very sick; my daddy says he needs a miracle. I would like to buy a miracle from you. I think I saved enough money to buy a miracle.”

“What nonsense are you talking about? Buying a miracle!” the pharmacist exploded. Tess explained to the pharmacist, “My brother is really sick, and the doctor here could not make him well. Mother says my brother needs an operation but this cannot be done here. We are running out of money and daddy believes that only a miracle can help my little brother now.

The well-dressed man, that is the pharmacist’s brother, approached Tess and stooping down to her asked, “What is wrong with your brother?” Tess replied, “My brother Andrew has something bad growing inside his head and my daddy says that only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost here?”

The well-dressed man smiled and asked her “How much did you manage to save?” She replied, “I have a dollar and eleven cents.”

The well-dressed man stood up and said, “If a miracle can save your brother, your money should be enough to pay for that miracle. Please take me to your brother and parents, and let’s see if we can have a miracle for him.” Taking him by the hand, Tess led Dr. Carlston Armstrong, a doctor from Chicago specializing in neurosurgery, to their home.

Dr. Armstrong examined Andrew and reviewed his medical records and later Andrew underwent the surgery he needed and not long after that he returned home, much improved and began to recover gradually. Dr. Armstrong did not charge the parents anything.

After the surgery that cost them nothing, the parents of Tess believed that it was really a miracle as they couldn’t imagine how they could pay for such a medical procedure. Tess herself believed it was her one dollar and eleven cents (which the doctor gave back to her parents) that saved her younger brother. Beyond all these thoughts and looking through the window of the reflection of this Sunday, we could say that Andrew was saved by the faith and the desirable work of his sister Tess, no more no less.

In life, whenever we stop having faith, we start failing. Faith confirms our trust in God and without it, we cannot please God. The Second Reading today (Heb.11:1-2.8-19) can rightly be called a hymn of faith while the Gospel Reading (Luke 12:32-48)  tells us about our eternal salvation which lies beyond the material consolations around us.

FAITH: The most deeply connecting definition of faith couldn’t have been any other than the one we have in the opening verse of the Second Reading today (Heb.11:1-2.8-19): “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. Looking at this biblical definition of faith we could dictate two important things and they are, willful assent and trust. To assent is to accept fully and to trust is to rely on something or someone. These two dispositions summarize faith.

If we take a critical look at the story of Tess earlier, we could see the aforementioned disposition running through. She accepted the fact (without a doubt) that her one dollar and eleven cents would purchase the “miracle” her brother needed to get well. Next, she relied on the expertise of the pharmacist to provide the “miracle”. It was in the process of setting her faith afire that she found the real miracle which her money could not have ordinarily purchased.

There is also in faith a productive valence which has to do with steadfastness or if you like not giving up. Of course, faith cannot work without steadfastness. The examples we were given in the Second Reading indicated that the characters mentioned (Abraham and Sarah) lived by faith, by remaining steadfast and not giving up.

DESIRABLE WORKS: It was St. James whose exposition on faith made us know that faith without (good) work is dead (James 2:14-26). This actually moderates the view of some people who often assume that John 3:16  means that only faith alone can save us. Faith becomes effectual when it is applied in a concrete situation. For example Tess in our story not only believed that miracle could save her brother she actually went in search of the miracle.

The importance of good works in addition to faith is expressed more deeply in the Gospel today (Luke 12:32-48) which is actually a continuation of the narrative of last Sunday about the rich and selfish fool. The bane of the man in that parable was his inability combine faith with desirable works. In the Gospel today our Lord instructed his listeners to sell their possessions and give alms. This is a practical way of living out the Christian faith by actively being at the service of others. By using the material things of this world to gain eternal treasures for ourselves in heaven.

The Christian life should go beyond mere words and translate into action. It is not enough to answer a Christian, there is a need for us to act as one. Let us remember the origin of the name in Antioch when people saw the disciples reproducing Christ in their words and actions and thus called them Christians (Christ-likes).

SALVATION: When our Lord in the Gospel of today advised that we should  provide ourselves with purses that do not grow old he was telling us to aim at salvation. When he advised that we should be like men waiting for their master to return from a marriage feast in order to open when he knocks he was telling us to secure our salvation.

From the above instructions, we can see that salvation is not a facility that comes merely by having faith. Rather we use our faith to work out our salvation. For this reason, Paul advised that we should WORK OUT our salvation with fear and tremble (Phil.2:12). It will amount to waste if after passing through the corridors of this world we secure everything apart from our souls (Mark 8:36).

You don’t need to perfect before you start working your salvation. Come with your faith (no matter how little) and your desirable works and God will perfect all things.

Did you know that:

Abraham was too old and Sarah was far beyond the age of childbearing.        Jacob was a liar and actually stole his brother’s blessings. Moses stuttered and actually committed murder. Hosea’s wife was a prostitute. David’s armour didn’t fit and he had an affair. In spite of his, wisdom Solomon worshipped other gods at some point in his life. Job suddenly became poor and sick. Peter was an uneducated fisherman and made a lot of blunders. Zacchaeus and Matthew were tax collectors and public sinners. Paul was a persecutor of the Church and actually killed Christians. Timothy had ulcers. Lazarus was dead. Mary Magdalene was considered a public sinner.

All these people secured their eternal gain by faith and desirable works. God does not call for an interview to grant our salvation. He does not look at our gains or losses nor at our beauty and frames. He is neither partial nor prejudge us. He loves us the way we are. He needs us to have faith in Him because without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb.11:6). He also wants us to person desirable works as whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sister that we did unto God (Matt. 25:40).

Let us work with faith as we go on to perform good and desirable works which also includes doing the will of God so that we can secure our eternal salvation.

May your faith and desirable works bring about your salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie



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