Faith and Works

The dispute about whether we are saved by faith or works, which I have heard people argue about many times, is not one I really understand. It has always clear to me that this is an instance of both/and rather then either/or. Today’s readings both go to that question.

In the first reading, St. Paul tells the Romans, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.”

On the surface, sounds like just faith. Maybe I’m just being simple here, but it seems self-evident that if one really believes in Incarnation and Resurrection – really believes to the depth of one’s heart and not just mouths the words – then that has to have an effect on our behavior in the world. It has to affect what we do and who we are to others. The corollary is that if our actions reveal Christ to the world, then we don’t really believe what we say we do. That says there can’t be real faith without works.

The first reading from Paul is paired with St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ call to his first disciples (including Andrew, whose feast we celebrate today). When Jesus said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately drop their fishing nets and follow him. Not a one of them said, “I believe you are the Lord, I promise” and went back to mending their nets. In fact, in St. Matthew’s account they say nothing – their actions speak for them.

Both/and. Not either/or.