Known by Our Actions: Faith with Works
Like St. Paul and countless other people of faith down through the centuries, I struggle with this concept. We can intend anything, believe anything about ourselves...but in the end, we are known by our actions. Our attention and discipline waver. They aren't constant, and yet we are called upon to be constant in our devotion to God and in our willingness to evidence that faith in what we choose to do with our time in this life with the people God puts in front of us. Now that is a thought that should bring us all up short. Much more complicated than a "catch-22," this calling to act faithfully when our energy, desire and resolve to act wavers like motes of dust blown by an errant breeze across the room.
How can we hew to this centering of our being on faith in action when gaining that center is such a difficult discipline to maintain?
We can't. That's the short answer. Not unless we are willing on a continual basis to let God reveal both God's self to us and maintain a will to look clearly at our own selves to boot. When we are called to serve the poor, God is also inviting us to love them and welcome them into our lives. When we are called to forgive others, God is also inviting us to seek and accept forgiveness from others. When we are called to speak truth to power, God is also inviting us to listen to those words as they are reflected back onto us. When we are called to provoke people to growth, we are called to grow.
That is what faith with works looks like, and James' cranky admonitions aside it is what makes the most sense as we struggle to take a faith that too easily slips into abstraction and irrelevance into a more concrete and realistic practice.
It is what takes the Church from being a place of vision, wherein we seek to see where and to what God is calling us into being a place of mission...where we work to enact the work that God has called us to: the nurture of those in need, the consolation of those in distress and the proclamation of a just Kingdom being formed in the image of God in our midst.
But, and this in the hard part and one I struggle with minute by minute in my life....are we willing to know ourselves by our actions? If we look hard at the choices we make, will see our faith looking back at us? On a good day, I might just hope to see that light...and on the rest I realize that I have a lot of work to do.....