Saturday, September 23, 2006

Faith and works

Steve (SJB) recently posted the following comments and questions:
"I'd love to see you address the faith/works issue (for lack of a better word), as it pertains to salvation. That is, if you already haven't given it a full post (and if there is interest from others).Isn't it true that the Catholic teaching is that faith is the one pathway to salvation, and that good works are a manifestation of that faith? To take an example--Wouldn't it be the case that Mother Teresa is it the Lord's side today because of her faith (devotion to the Eucharist, etc.)? Her good works were born of that faith, but are not why she has entered into eternal salvation. I probably have this all knotted up! Disentangle it for me!"

Thanks for your post, Steve. One of the first places I go on this issue is James 2:14-26. Particularly, "demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works" (v.18). This is what you mean when you say that good works are a manifestation of faith. St. James is saying that faith without works is 'dead', and asks, "Can that faith save (a person)" (v.14)?

The Church teaches that "salvation comes from God alone" and that "our justification comes from the grace of God"(CCC, # 169, 1996). It is through and in Christ Jesus that man receives God's grace, which is the means of his salvation. Specifically, it is Christ's death and resurrection (the Paschal mystery) that is our salvation. Anyone who wishes to be saved must not only have faith in Christ, but must actually do something: participate in the Paschal mystery.

Initially, for us, that comes in the form of Baptism; Christ says that Baptism is necessary for salvation (see Jn 3:5). This is where we receive the gift of Faith. We live out our Baptism (and participate in the Paschal Mystery) by receiving the Grace of the other sacraments. I would consider these "works" that are necessary for salvation. Christ says that we must receive the Eucharist in order to receive eternal life (see Jn 6:54). The sacraments are the works of Christ, but we actually share in them for ourselves.

Beyond these primary ways to receive salvation, Christ makes it clear that there are other "works" (based in faith in Christ and from his Grace) that are necessary for us to get to Heaven. In Matthew 25, he says that we will be judged on how we treated the poor. Those who did good "works" with the poor will go to Heaven; those who did not "will go off to eternal punishment" (v.46). Faith in Christ demands the response of works of charity. We are not saved by faith or works alone. We are saved by the Grace of Christ which gives us faith and is manifested through good works.

For more reading about faith / works, check out this site:


At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


How come we can't post on your blog?

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

are in need of donations. This collection will benefit their Home for the Aged in need. They are assisted in their work by the generosity of friends and benefactors and will be most grateful for any help that you may be able to offer. Contributions can also be mailed to: Little Sisters of the Poor, 4200 Harewood Road, NE, Washington, DC 20017.

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Hoping for a Stanley Cup said...

This does not pertain to the topic. I have neighbors who are fundamentalist Christians and feel that Halloween is evil. What is the church's position on Halloween?

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous SJB said...

Fr. Greg,

Thanks for the faith/works post. It is very helpful to this recent RCIA grad. A quick follow up. What does the Church teach regarding the salvation of those who are non-Catholics? And what about those who may never have heard of Jesus Christ?



At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that if you are non-Catholic but still lead a good life you will have salvation. If you have never heard of Jesus Christ the same applies to the above because its not their fault they didn't get a chance to hear about Jesus.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

hoping for a stanley cup said......Fundamentalist Christians and HALLOWEEN.....

I researched this one for the exact same reason that you are asking this question. The web is full of really detailed explanations. Since Nov.1 is All Saints Day (and we celebrate that good wins out over evil-celebrate the Saints), Halloween, the day before, stands for Hallowed Eve (or the night before) Oct. 31st. It is a long story, but a tradition began among early Christians to MOCK evil on Hallowed Eve, the day before we celebrate that good has conquered evil. So the evil or scary costumes are meant to make fun of evil. I think these traditions started in Ireland. There is more detail in historical accounts. Evangelicals don't celebrate ALL SAINTS DAY- So you see how they can perceive it. I would be interested to know if the church has a position on this or just a historical explanation?
Father Greg would know that one.


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