The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let the man confront me. See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?(P) The word of the Lord.
I love the Lord because He has heard my voice in supplication, because He has inclined His ear to me the day I called. (R)
The cord of death encompassed me; the snares of the netherworld seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow, and I called upon the name of the Lord, "O Lord, save my life!" (R)
Gracious is the Lord and just; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and He saved me. (R)
For He has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (R)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philppi. Along the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets." And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said to him in reply, "You are the Christ." Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day a little girl while out with her grandmother in her garden caught a frog. Before bringing the frog inside her home she kissed the frog and wished it to turn into a handsome prince. The next day she took the frog to her school. Her friends asked, "Hey, you have a frog for a pet?" "It's not a frog," she replied. "It is a prince." Her friends repeatedly shouted, "No, it is a frog." And she repeatedly said, "No, it is a prince." Meanwhile, the frog was croaking nonstop.
Despite her insistence her friends could not accept that her frog was a prince. A frog is a frog. They could not be fooled. The same is true for Christians. How can others know we are Christians? What do we have to do to prove that we are Christians? If you say you are a Christian does everyone believe that you are a Christian?
Who and what is or isn't a Christian? Some say that being born into a Christian family or growing up in a Christian community makes a person a Christian. Others say that being christened or baptized by a priest or minister makes a person a Christian. Some assume that someone having a "religious" or "biblical" or saint's name is a Christian. Some others argue that they are Christ followers but not Christians. They do not want to use the word Christian because they do not like the religion of Christianity. And others say that many profess to be followers of Christ, but their lives and their priorities show otherwise. So, some do not want to believe and accept someone as a Christian despite the person having a Christian name and attending all religious services and rituals.
So, what truly makes someone a Christian? How does the Bible - God inspired Word - describe a Christian? In the gospel of Mark, (12:28-30), a Christian is described as someone who loves God the Father and Jesus Christ with all his heart, mind and strength. According to Matthew, (4:4), and Luke, (4:4), a Christian is one who is committed to live by every word of God not by the bread alone. John puts it slightly differently. He says that a Christian is one who holds to the teaching of Jesus, Vs (8:31).
James, in his epistle which we read in today's second reading, emphasizes that, "Faith, if it does not have works is dead", Vs (2:17). That is to say, we cannot call ourselves Christians if we do not put our faith into action.
This is the third Sunday we read and reflect upon Saint James' letter to the early Christians. Let me recap on what James has told us so far. The first Sunday he urged us to gratefully recognize every good thing, especially "the word of truth" or "the gospel of Jesus" as a gift from God, humbly welcome it, and "do not be just hearers of the word" but also "doers of the word". Then he explained that purity and efficacy of our religion and faith can be well manifested through our concern and care for the poor, particularly the orphans, widows, and less fortunate.
Last Sunday, James admonished us to avoid favoritism or partiality to anyone based on his or her social or economic status or the lack of such status. He also pointed out that when we show partiality or treat someone differently, we allow evil thoughts to compromise our judgment and discriminate against the poor and the lowly, people who are loved by God the most. Instead he encouraged unity and respect for one another within a community, and true faith which expresses itself in acts of love and compassion.
In today's text he goes one step further by highlighting the differences between dead or useless faith and living or saving faith. James asks us a series of questions for us to ponder over. He asks, "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" "Can that faith save him?" If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to him or her, "Go in peace, keep warm and eat well," but do not give the person the necessities of the body, what good is it?
What James means is that if a person in need of food or clothes shows up at a believer's doorstep, rather than providing some actual assistance for the need, if the believer sends the person away with good tidings and a promise of prayer, such a believer's faith is useless. In other words, true faith in God ought to manifest itself in obedience to God's commandments, and true transformation of life ought to be demonstrated with the good works we do. How we live reveals what we believe and whether the faith we confess is a living faith and truth faith. Therefore, true faith in God ultimately has to do with being good and be useful for something.
You might want to ask some questions here:
Let us, therefore, friends, try and examine our faith. Test yourself whether you have a living faith or a dead faith. Do not assume that you have real or true faith just because you are a baptized Christian. Let us beware of self-deceit. Self-deceit or self-deception can destroy your happiness and deprive you of blessings. Together with your faith nurture the habit of doing good works. Besides the love offering you make every week and during natural disasters, through which you bring God's compassion and love to people in need, regularly help the poor and homeless in small ways. Let more and more goodness and kindness spring from your faith.
Spread the gospel of Jesus through your thoughts, words and deeds. I am sure God will give you hope and fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him and carry out good works in His name. As you make efforts to be a true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, let the words of Blessed Mother Teresa reverberate in your mind and heart:
"A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt and must empty ourselves. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace."(P) Amen.
God Bless You!