5th Sunday of the year (B) 2018

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
This means that salvation is not and cannot be a reward for good works.
Catholic teaching is that faith or justification or salvation is a free gift from God.
Catholic teaching also requires good works for salvation.
This does not mean that by good works I can merit or gain or win eternal salvation.
Faith is a free gift from God. By faith in God I realise and believe in the many gifts which God my Creator has freely given me. I am free to accept or reject these free gifts. Believing in and accepting these free gifts will inevitably bring about a response from me. This response can only be gratitude. Gratitude naturally gives rise to respect and liking. This will naturally lead me to seek to please the giver of the gifts. This seeking to please the giver of the gifts leads to what we call good works. Therefore in this sense only do we understand the phrase ‘faith and good works are necessary for salvation.’
It is a natural progression. They are part of one and the same thing.
This understanding is widely overlooked, but it is a huge and all important difference.
Consider the following carefully;
1) I believe in God and in the free gifts of God. I understand and accept these free gifts. Out of gratitude to God for his goodness and generosity I strive to please God in every way I can.
2) I believe in God and the gifts of God. I want these gifts very badly. I believe that I have to obey God if I want to gain these gifts. My motivation is self interest. I am in constant fear that I will offend God and thus lose these gifts.
The first is the ‘Good News of great joy for all the people’ brought to us by Jesus of Nazareth. The second is the Old Testament belief and understanding of God.
The key here is a sense of gratitude. Gratitude to my God for His many free gifts.
To feel gratitude to someone I must have an understanding of what that person has done for me. I must regularly remind myself of, and think about, what that person has done for me. I must fan this flame of gratitude in my heart until it becomes the principle motivation in my life. This constant recalling of and increasing understanding of God’s free gifts to me must be the principle ingredient of all my prayer. Surely this was why Jesus ‘went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’
All the above is just common sense. Something we are all aware of in our everyday relationships with people. Do you want your marriage partner and your children to like you and enjoy your company or do you want them to fear and obey you? Do you want your friends to accompany you on your holiday because they enjoy your company or because they are hoping that you will pay for them? Do you want to receive Christmas gifts because of the gratitude the givers feel towards you or because they are expecting much greater gifts in return? You be the judge.
Our weekly Mass is all about gratitude for gifts received.
It recounts to us, it reminds us – we God’s family here in Corsham – of God’s many gifts to us and expresses our gratitude, in an official and symbolic way. It is the act, the official act, not of individuals, but of a whole congregation together.
This is expressed together as a congregation when, led by the presider (the Priest), we all respond with one voice at the beginning of the canon of the Mass; The Lord be with you. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and just.
In all things relating to God and religion it is not what I do that matters. It is why I do it.