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FAITH and WORKS

Can Christians rely on faith alone as their personal plan for salvation? The "reformers" of the 16th century implied that they could. Martin Luther even added the word "alone" in Romans 3:28: "a person is justified by faith [alone] apart from works of the law". A look at the entire Biblical message, however, shows that this faith alone thinking is in fact unsupported. It also shows the inseparable relationship between faith and works.

St. Paul wrote to Christian communities where some members claimed that one must first become a Jew to be a Christian. All of his "works of the law" statements refer to the Jewish statutes. He thus emphasized to the Gentiles in those communities that their initial justification is based on their faith in Jesus (similar to Abram and his faith response to God in Genesis) rather than on works of the (Jewish) law, particularly circumcision, but he is not implying that the works which accompany and manifest their Christian faith are of no consequence. The Epistle of James agrees and points out that Abraham's works in conjunction with his faith continued the process of justification.

Note that St. Paul makes other statements in Romans such as "justified freely by His grace" and "justified by His blood", which show that justification comes from more than faith alone. James makes it even clearer by stating that believers are justified by works and not by faith alone, and that faith without works is dead! Jesus tells us that it is not enough to profess "Lord, Lord" and expect to be saved without doing the will of the Father in Heaven, and in His talk about the final judgment He makes it quite clear that works are an integral part of our faith life that leads to salvation.

The Catholic Church has always taught that we are saved by grace through faith in conjunction with works of charity. Thus it is that the corporal works of mercy such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc., play a primary role in completing the justification process that helps us attain the goal of our faith, the salvation of our soul.

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