First of all, I want to thank one of my faithful readers (she knows who she is) for catching a typo in yesterday's blog entry. I meant to say that our salvation is a gift WITHOUT condition.
However, today's readings beg me to follow up on what I wrote yesterday, for again, without saying so explicitly, St. Paul and the Gospel of Matthew once again speak about the issue of "good works." St. Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians: Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. . . You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:6, 11) Following up on his plea for generosity, which we read yesterday, St. Paul emphatically states that not only are such gifts necessary if we wish to be blessed in return, he also states that such generosity is an act of gratitude, the natural reaction from anyone who has been given a gift. The gift of our salvation, won through our faith in the Lord Jesus, is unconditional. Yet we must respond to that gift with good works if we want to be seen as grateful for what God has done for us.
St. Matthew's Gospel presents us with Jesus' words on the subject of giving. Three times he makes this statement: And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:4, 8, 18b) He makes this statement after each of the dissertations on the familiar trio of prayer, acts of self denial and alms giving. It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to see these three familiar parts of Christian asceticism as "good works." In each instance, Jesus asks us to perform these actions with no strings attached – in other words, unconditionally.
This ideal is part of the teachings of other major religions as well. For instance, in the Hindu Bahgavadgita, we read: "Do your works without desire for reward."
As Catholic Christians, we hold tightly to the teachings of St. Paul which tell us that we are saved by faith. We also know and believe that our efforts to perform good works are simply our way of stating our gratitude for the unconditional gift of God's love for us. We love because God loved us first.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator