Pick up your Cross
In verse 14 of the second chapter of James we find him asking the rhetorical question that if someone has faith but does not have works can that faith save him? Of course the implied answer is no it can’t. So what kind of works are we talking about here? It’s those kinds of works that are using the talents given to us to help others. This way we can increase the richness of the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Indeed Jesus described the kingdom of heaven, in the parable of the bags of gold, as a man going on a journey and entrusted his wealth to his servants. Each were given an amount according to their ability (Matt 25:14-30). The Lord entrusts His servants with tasks according to their abilities which means we will never be asked to do something that we aren’t able to do with His Help. If we purposely avoid using these abilities in such a way as to simply keep the status quo, that is, not easing the suffering of others or bringing them to Christ and so on, then when the master returns (that is at our judgment) we will be judged worthless (Matt 25:30). But if we do those things that He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10) then we have reason to hope that at our judgment we will hear the Lord say: “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Mat 25:23).
In fact, Jesus never said that it was going to be easy once we have faith, He said that we are to pick up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). He even told us through James that if we do not do the works that we are tasked to do then our faith is a dead faith (James 2:20). We still have faith but it’s dead. A living faith is what is needed to be judged righteous before God. This living faith is simply defined as a faith which has works.
Now, in the Gospel reading of today we find Jesus letting the Apostles know that He is indeed the Christ and then summons a crowd and tells them “whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) Jesus is now in Heaven and so if we wish to follow Him there, we must do as He did. We must pick up our cross and follow him. If we do this then we not only believe in His Word but also DO as He did. He gave everything of Himself for others; we are to do the same. His Church is to do the same.
Do you see now how important good works are for our own good and that of the Church? These works are only possible because God gives us the abilities to do what He asks of us but we still need to DO them. It’s true that “…it is by grace [we] have been saved, through faith—and this is not from [ourselves], it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9) Yes, this is true but the very next verse is also true, that “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”(v.10)
So God has prepared in advance for us to do good works, it is His Will that we do them. Jesus said that those who believe but do not do His Will won’t enter heaven. He says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mat 7:21) Let us do good works, making disciples of all nations by baptizing evangelizing the world! (Mat 28:19)