In today’s Second Reading, James teaches that faith must be demonstrated in one’s works. “What good is it, if you say you have faith, but do not have works? If a brother or sister is without clothing and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I, by my works, will show you my faith.”
James puts a special emphasis on the fact that our faith cannot be empty or shallow. We must put our faith into action if it is to mean anything at all. We could substitute the term “positive actions” for good works. The more positive actions we perform, the more we remain in friendship with God. The challenge is to look for opportunities to put faith into action, and to take them when they come. There are simple, practical examples of how we can put these “good deeds” into practice:
- Smile. Be kind.
- Use your manners.
- As suggested by Mother Teresa, if you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.
- Help a friend in need.
- Think of something you do well and use your talent to benefit others, like reading to or playing games with a senior at a retirement home or playing music at a nursing home.
- Offer to cook or clean for the family of someone who has recently given birth.
- Plant a vegetable garden and donate the vegetables to a food kitchen.
- Take food to a new neighbour.
- Take part in a literacy program to help children or adults learn to read.
- Make a double batch of something delicious and freezable and give it to an older neighbour who doesn’t cook for himself or herself as much anymore.
- Praise a colleague’s good work or compliment prompt service at a fast-food restaurant.
- Treat a friend to dinner.
- Find unneeded items in your house and donate them to a charitable organization.
- Add yourself to a bone marrow registry.
- Donate blood.
- Volunteer at an organization of your choice, like breakfast program at a local school, food bank.
- Do something as simple as holding the door open for a stranger or allow a fellow driver to merge into your lane.
- Try not to let a day go by that you do not do something for someone else.
- Ask, “What did I DO to my family today? What did I do FOR my family today? If we remembered that every person is part of our family in a metaphorical sense, perhaps we would treat people with more patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.
The Second Reading triggered some rather personal thoughts for me. I question when someone says “Well, so-and-so isn’t going to Mass anymore so isn’t a practising Catholic. I challenge that because I have a sister who “left the Church” years ago. She married a non-Catholic and didn’t have someone to go to Church with, so soon lost the habit of attending Mass. Some would say she’s not Catholic anymore and I disagree. If you met her, you’d soon see that SHE is the true Catholic. She babysits for the young couple across the street where she lives and doesn’t ask for payment. She wants them to get out together for some time needed together. She volunteers at the Hospice in her city and is active in raising money to fund this beautiful “end of life” facility. She helps in activities at a home where dementia residents live. She is the first to bring food to someone who has been laid up; the first to offer help when needed. She accompanied a young friend to her chemo treatments and was there for her as a support system. She belongs to a group that gives money to schools for lunch programs and the school’s book fairs so that all children can buy their own books to keep. My sister is kind, gentle and unerringly authentic, who gives of her time freely and asks nothing in return. She is the epitome of a true Catholic. Her faith is active in her works every day of her life. I’m sure you all know someone like my sister. Let us not be judgmental of his/her Catholicism.
In conclusion, let us pray that we respond to the person and message of Jesus, not by words as James says in the second reading, but by ATTITUDES and ACTIONS that reflect the radical vision of Catholic life, that put FAITH into ACTION.