Homily for March 6, Sunday of the IX Week in Ordinary Time, year A To listen, click the “play” button above, or click here to download the MP3 audio file.
The readings this morning give us an encapsulated summary of the need for both faith and works in order to be saved.
The first reading gives us a taste of the Old Testament emphasis on obeying the commandments of the Law: Moses announces a blessing on those who obey, and a curse on those who turn away from God and disobey; the psalm helps balance this with a sense of our need for God’s strength, support and guidance, for without Him we cannot hope to succeed.
Then, we move to the New Testament. In the letter to the Romans, St Paul explains that justification in Christ – being made worthy of heaven – comes by primarily by faith, “apart from works of the law”. Many Protestants take this to mean that all you have to do is profess your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, and you are all set. There is an element of truth to this interpretation; if someone truly converts to the faith, is baptized, and dies on the spot, they will go to heaven, even if they have not done anything else good before. The sacrament of faith has made then a new creation in Christ.
Nonetheless, this is only a partial view of the truth, as we can see from today’s Gospel passage. Jesus points out that our profession of faith is empty if it does not lead to good works, doing what God asks of us. It is not enough to listen to the Lord’s teachings and give them lip service; we have to act on them.
As you know, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Throughout this period of preparation for Easter, the Church invites us to make an extra effort to live closer to Christ, to put our faith into action, particularly through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Each of us has to see how to make that real and practical in our own circumstances, but we have plenty of opportunities here in the parish. To increase our prayer life, we could consider going to some weekday Masses, if we don’t already, or perhaps the daily Holy hour. For fasting and almsgiving, maybe we could donate some food or extra clothing to the soup kitchen, or volunteer our time and talent to help in some other way.
The important thing is that, with the help of God’s grace, we renew our faith in the saving power of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection. The authenticity of that faith is forged and proven by our sincere efforts to be more like Christ in our daily actions. Thus we will be building our house on the Rock, our God, Who alone is our refuge and our stronghold.