Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are presented through the Scripture passages we heard, of the topic which often came up in the discussion of our faith, especially regarding the matter of salvation and faith. We are reminded that our faith cannot be empty and devoid of good and concrete actions, or good works based on that faith, because without those works, our faith is truly empty, meaningless and dead.
That is the essence of what St. James had mentioned in his Epistle, that faith without good works is the same as having a dead faith, and having a dead faith is meaningless and pointless to us, as it does not lead us towards God but instead to eternal damnation like those who have sinned and disobeyed God, and refused to repent from their sins. For faith, by itself, without the backing of concrete action, is no better than just formality or even hypocrisy for some.
St. James used the example of how even the demons and evil spirits, who rebelled against God and were formerly angels of heaven that were thrown down because of their sins, still believed in God and had to obey Him as their Lord and Master, no matter how they begrudged it or hated it. After all, they were created by Him and they still have to acknowledge His authority and power. That was why the demons and evil spirits obeyed Jesus when He ordered them to get out of the people they had possessed.
Yes, indeed, they believed and had faith in God much as we do, but the evil spirits and demons did not hold fast to their faith and instead put their trust in their own pride and rebellion, following Lucifer, their leader, whom now we know as Satan in their rebellion of pride and vanity, and they all fell and were condemned. They had faith but acted otherwise, no different from many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom the Lord Jesus often rebuked because of their hypocrisy and lack of true faith.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord spoke about those who were unfaithful and preferred to save themselves rather than to gain the kingdom of God. These people were those who were too engrossed in their desires for worldly ambitions and pleasures, that they would rather save their lives in this world rather than to save themselves in the world that is to come. They put faith as a mere formality and at face value, but inside their hearts, there was no love for God.
The Lord spoke of this again with reference to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who often opposed Him and worked against Him all the time. They had faith in God indeed, and they claimed to be the most faithful and pious of all God’s people, and yet, their faith were superficial and for show, as they prayed publicly and made show of their piety that they might be praised and honoured for that, and they revelled and enjoyed in such treatment.
Those people had faith in God and yet did not show their faith through genuine good works, and instead, they acted in ways contrary to their faith and to what they had been teaching the people, and that was why they were considered as hypocrites. Their love for themselves and their own ego and desire surpassed and overcome their faith in God, and that was why, they refused to believe in the Lord’s truth and all the wonderful and miraculous deeds He has performed before their own eyes.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are therefore called to be truly faithful to God, not just in name or as a formality only, but that we must be genuine in wanting to follow God and His ways at every moments of our lives. We are called to be His witnesses in our respective communities and places, to proclaim His glory and truth by our lives, lived with faith and true dedication, and not just faith in name only.
Today, we can look upon the good examples set by one of Our Lord’s faithful saint, whose life and works are truly an inspiration for all of us as Christians. This saint is none other then St. Peter Damian, a holy bishop, Cardinal of the Church and a Doctor of the Church whose feast we celebrate today. He was a member of the Benedictine Order, and was remembered to be a great reformer of the Church and the Christian faith.
St. Peter Damian devoted much of his life to serve the Church in various capacities, beginning from religious life as part of the Benedictine monks, and his tremendous piety and love for God were evident even from those early days. He worked closely with some of the Popes, and was involved in the major reforms of the Church at that time which was facing my corruptions and immoral behaviours of its members, especially that of the clergy, from the influences of the secular world.
For his many works and contributions, the then reigning Pope wanted to make St. Peter Damian a Cardinal, a great honour which he resisted and rejected for quite some time before finally he accepted the important role as the Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, one of the most prestigious role in the Roman Church, becoming the right hand man of the Pope in reforming many Church practices and disciplines, guiding many back to the path of obedience to God.
For that and his many other contributions, we can see how St. Peter Damian was not just a man who had an empty and meaningless faith. Instead, he showed us all what it means for us to have a genuine, living and worthy faith, faith that according to St. James as faith which is lived through good works, and through those same good works and faith, we will be blessed by God and brought to salvation.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we carry on living our lives in this world from now on, let us all reflect on today’s Scripture readings and the words of St. James, and being inspired by St. Peter Damian and his lifelong dedication to God, let us all strive to dedicate ourselves to God with a newfound zeal and strength. May God be with us throughout this journey, and may He bless us all now and forevermore. Amen.