Scripture: Lectionary 339: James 2:14-24,26. Psalm 112:1-2,3-4,5-6. Mark 8:34-9:1
“Faith without practice is thoroughly useless.” St. James, the Apostle, uses these strong words to awaken us from our lethargy today. He continues,“without works faith is idle.” We also know that “all is grace” when it comes to who we are in relationship to our Creator and Redeemer. This grace in our history of salvation has to be responded to with our human mind, heart, and will. We have learned time and time again that we are created in the image and likeness of God according to the words of Genesis in chapter one. Rabbi Leonard Kenecki says we are given the image of God as pure gift and what we do with it is the “likeness”. This seems very close to what St. James is trying to imprint in our hearts and minds. James then tells us, “A person is justified by his works and not by faith alone.”
Without arguing or without polemic we are people who seek wholesomeness and integrity. In the Scriptures these are frequently brought together by faith, acts, and grace. All three are necessary and are like “love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage” as a classic old song put it. We are called to be creative agents of God’s redeeming love and grace. That is quite a call and a lifelong commitment.
The Psalm Response and its verses bring out clearly in a prayer genre what James is talking about. “Blessed are those who do what the Lord commands.” (Psalm 112:1).
Jesus in the Gospel calls us to the active following of him on the way to Calvary. This is a central message of the first Gospel and is repeated dramatically three times after the Transfiguration. This requires our active response to the grace and call to discipleship. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross and follow in my footsteps.” This is a call to action as well as a belief in Jesus’ words. Faith must be active each day in us to do whatever Jesus is telling us. His own mother Mary is one of the best models for doing this. She understood through her faith in her son and thus tells not only the steward and the waiters at Cana “to do whatever (Jesus) tells us. She also means we are to do whatever Jesus tells us. Amen.