The Paradox of Works

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We see what seems to be an interesting quandry in today’s readings. In the first reading from Deuteronomy, we see that God offers “a blessing for obeying the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord, your God…” OK, so the people were called to obey the laws of the Lord. In the second reading from Romans 3, St. Paul says, “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” These seem to be polar opposites.

In the Gospel reading from Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and ACTS (emphasis added) on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” So, to recap: God says that following the commandments (the law) is imperative. Paul says that we don’t have to follow the “works of the law,” that we are justified apart from those. But Jesus talks about not just hearing and believing His words, but putting them into ACTION (works). What are we to think about this?

It’s really not so complicated. The “works of the law” that Paul referred to included the over 600 dietary and cleansing Levitical laws that the Jews had to follow. So, where do “works” fit into our salvation? Do we still have to keep the commandments, or are we justified apart from those? Jesus makes it clear again and again that we are called to follow the commandments, to live lives of holiness. We do this through our actions. You see, faith and works is not an either/or proposition. It is a both/and thing for us.

Father, give us greater faith, and help us to put that faith into action today. Amen.

Today’s readings


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