Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how faith pushes us to do stuff.  What kind of stuff? Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read James James 2.1-17. #GreatCatholicPreaching #Catholic #BenU1887

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, September 9, 2012, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read the Epistle of James 2.1-17.
    Faith First, Works Second
If you have a Maserati, which is better, to get in the car and sit, or to turn the key and drive?  It is obvious, is it not?
I want to drive the car.
Now, this seems to me to be the answer for that age old debate in Christian circles, is salvation by faith or works?  Well, we all know that Jesus has done the work of salvation on the Cross.  He has died for our sins, something we did not want to do nor were we able to do.  He is the eternal sacrifice given to pay for the things we do against God, of which there are many.  We know that there is nothing we can do about our sin.  Jesus did it and does it for us.  It is by grace that we are saved.  
So, we are in the Maserati race car when we trust Jesus and are baptized.
 
All of this is God’s doing, mind you.  But if we stop there, then what is the point?  Why would we be baptized, believe and come to church, if we weren’t going to live the life we were called to live?  It makes no sense.  Why just sit in a race car when you have been given the keys and can drive it?
This is the point of the Epistle of St. James today.  The whole of the letter deals with our response to God after he has saved us through the person of Jesus Christ.  James answers the questions, “Is there life after a born again conversion?” for the Protestant and “Is there something more after Confirmation?” for the Catholic.  And the answer to both is, “Yes, there is.”
James’ answer is that the life after the Cross of Christ is to be filled with good works.  If there was no outward expression of our faith, according to what we believe, then we are just a heap of hypocrites, which the Gospel addressed last week.
 
This reminds me of when I was driving down the highway one day and a car was weaving in and out of lanes, coming up on the tail of the driver in front of them and honking their horn.  I saw them in my rearview mirror.  As they passed, I noticed they had the “ICTHUS” fish on the back of the car.
Now, what does all of the believing in Jesus in the word do for us when we don’t live the life we are called to live in Jesus Christ?  It is not enough to just sit in the car behind the wheel and believe, know the doctrines of the church, and agree with them.  We must drive the car!  We must do it!
I am asked all the time what is needed to make the church or our University Ministry grow.  It is the same thing that James was telling his church: be true to who Christ wants you to be.  Apparently, James was writing to churches who were showing favoritism to the rich and powerful.  He follows the thinking of  Leviticus 19 when he tells them  “ But if you show partiality, your sin being exposed by the law as transgressors.”  If they claimed to be followers of Jesus and showed partiality to the rich, then it sends the message that Jesus favors the rich.
 
When someone comes into the church who is sick, tired and hungry, what good is it to say ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’ when they have to sleep in the peace-less streets and have nothing to eat.  That doesn’t make sense.
We are in a world full of talk.  Yak. Yak. Yak.  The radio talks at us.  The TV talks at us, in more than 300 channels of nothing if we choose.  Our e-mail talks at us.  Now, our phone talks WITH us.  We are in the information age.  We have removed knowing from doing.  
Television allows us to watch children running from a school building as a child is inside shooting.  We are shocked for a moment, but can return to the peace of our own little world with the push of a button on the remote control.  We can turn off the radio and walk away.  We can turn off the computer and walk away.  This past week, when I was writing this talk, we in the ministry office gasped when a student told us that the night before she had (pause and speak slowly) turned off her mobile phone!  We can walk away because the yak, yak, yak of the information age has removed information from responsibility.  All the pain just seems so far away.  Therefore, we do less and less.  We take less and less to heart.
 
We have, at times, given in to the temptation that religion is just another information age fun fact to make us feel good.  We allow this to happen so that we don’t have to change our actions because we are now “Christian,” “We are now ‘Catholic’.”  We allow this devaluing of God speak to happen because then we can just worry about ourselves.  But if we just worry about ourselves, then will anyone else come to know Christ and know a saving relationship with him?  Don’t we really want others to be have a heavenly relationship with Christ?  The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity says we must care about the salvation of others. So, to just have faith without any works is to fail to live out a witness to Christ’s goodness and effectiveness.
James turns thinking of religion as just an action of the head or heart on its ear.  True religion is not just about being right in our doctrine.  True religion is not just about thinking right.  True religion is not about feeling right.  True religion is about action motivated by our love for God and neighbor.
 
Our society thirsts for heroes.  One of the reasons we thirst for heroes because we have been so far removed from acting on our faith in the information age.  God, Jesus, the Bible, the preaching, are all just one more source of information to “help us through our day.”  James is saying that true faith, true religion, is right doctrines and dogma lived out in everyday life.
I’ve told you before that if a church needs to tell people in its advertising or signage that it is a “friendly church,” it probably isn’t.  What the world needs is more churches that do their talking with the way they spend their money, the way they treat visitors who walk in the door, and how active they are loving the community around them in the name of Christ.  I believe that we do a lot toward these goals.  I also believe that we can do better–always.
True religion is about being seized by the living God and recognizing that we have been saved through our baptism to live a life with purpose.  It is a purpose beyond ourselves.  It is to be a group of radical people who go out in the world in a radical love and seek to be kind and generous in radical ways to the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ.  
 
Some people in the church will insist that you have faith–the right faith.  Other will insist that you do the right works–usually works of inclusion.  They will want you to take a side.  James says that the problem with this thinking is that faith and works must go together.  Works are an indicator of faith.  Faith is the foundation of truly GOOD works.  So, let’s not be afraid to do good works.  They are not the enemy.  The enemy is the one who doesn’t want you to do any works so that he can do his evil without your opposition.
So, is it better to sit in the Maserati or is it better to drive it?  The answer is that it is good to sit in it and drive.  We must first sit in it so that we can drive.   We have faith so that we can live the life that God calls us to live.  We are called to live out our true belief in Jesus Christ through good works done to the glory of his name. What are the prayers you are called to pray today and what are the works you are going to do to fulfill them? Amen?  Amen.
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