Spring is officially upon us, and as you go out on our walks, you will start to see the first signs of spring in the vegetation around you. Several of our plants around the presbytery are starting to bud and come into flower, and we hope that some of these flowers will bear fruit like they did last season. These flowers and the fruit that follows are clear signs of the health of the plant. When it comes to us as humans, we can also ascertain the health of a person in what they say and do. A healthy person can do things that those who are injured or are sick are unable to do. We are also able to recognise the goodness in others and this goodness attracts us. These goodhearted people attract us and it is natural for us to want to be around them and ultimately, we want to be their friends. St. James, in this Sunday’s second reading, encapsulates the origin of this attractive goodness. He also makes a clear link between faith in God and external words and actions that are good and attractive.
St. James ultimately tells us that the good deeds that we do are the evidence of the gift of faith that has been given to us by God. The phrase “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James2:17) is a strong statement. It conveys a reality, that belief must lead to action. Therefore, someone who really believes in a certain way of life would then conform their life in accordance with that belief. For example, someone who comes to the realisation that family relationships are essential for a balanced and fulfilled life would spend energy and resources to achieve this. They would take time out of their day to get in contact with different family members, they would make sure that they would be able to attend family reunions (lockdown levels permitting). Living out the principles that they hold dear would change them, they would be formed and transformed by this and people looking from the outside would be able to see that they clearly prioritise their family relationships. Essentially, people would be able to clearly identify that they would be practicing what they preached.
This practical example also works when it is translated to the spiritual life. When we have faith, it makes demands of us, it governs how we will talk and how we will act. These are the “works” that St. James refers to, when we keep alive our life of faith it will manifest in visible works. When we live by faith, we will desire good outcomes for ourselves and for others, we will want other people to share in the good things that we already have. We will desire that all have access to the essentials of life, for example, food, water, clothing, and housing. However, the ultimate good that we as Christians possess is that bond, that relationship with God, that we have by virtue of our baptism. This ultimate good that we possess also needs to be shared, it is a scary thing to think about sharing something that is so personal. Even if it is intimidating, it is important to bear witness to the good that Jesus has worked in your life, to share with others the fruit of your faith in Christ. This is faith in action, and when you choose to share this aspect of your life it is a sharing of the good works that God has manifested in your life and ultimately is a compelling witness to the faith that you have.
Fr Tony King-Archer