Bread of Life

BREAD OF LIFE
 this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (john 6: 50)
The miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him. Jesus Christ celebrated the first Mass with His disciples at the Last Supper, the night before He died. He commanded His disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). The celebration of the Mass then became the main form of worship in the early Church, as a reenactment of the Last Supper, as Christ had commanded. Each and every Mass since commemorates Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross through the Holy Eucharist. Because the Mass “re-presents” (makes present) the sacrifice on Calvary, Catholics all around the world join together to be made present in Christ’s timeless sacrifice for our sins. There is something fascinating about continuing to celebrate the same Mass—instituted by Christ and practiced by the early Church—with the whole community of Catholics around the world…and in heaven.

THE REAL PRESENCE

Why does the Catholic Church believe Christ is really present in the Eucharist?
The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus Christ is literally, not symbolically, present in the Holy Eucharist—body, blood, soul and divinity. Catholics believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist because Jesus tells us this is true in the Bible:

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” - John 6:48-56
Furthermore, the early Church Fathers either imply or directly state that the bread and wine offered in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is really the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrine of the Real Presence that Catholics believe today was believed by the earliest Christians 2,000 years ago!

This miracle of God’s physical presence to us at every Mass is the truest testament to Christ’s love for us and His desire for each of us to have a personal relationship with Him.

Friday, November 12, 2010

PAUL & JAMES ON FAITH & WORKS

by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Many readers of the New Testament misinterpret both Paul and James, thus concluding that their statements about faith and works contradict each other. That is simply not true! There are differences in emphasis, but no contradictions in teaching, if one understands both properly.

Paul and James agree that both "faith" and "works" are essential parts of Christian life, although they have different roles. Paul and James also agree that salvation ultimately comes from God and from Jesus Christ, not from us or anything that we do.

However, since Paul and James wrote to different audiences in different situations about different problems, their letters have different presuppositions and different emphases. To combat the opinion of some people that circumcision and other "works of the law" were necessary for Gentile converts to early Christianity, Paul stresses that the foundation of our salvation is the death of Jesus, not the laws of Moses. To combat the opinion of other people that professing faith in God is enough for salvation, James stresses that Christians must put their faith into concrete action.

What Paul and James actually wrote:

Galatians 2:16 - "Yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in/of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in/of Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." (see all of Gal 2:15—3:14)
Romans 3:28 - "For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law." (see all of Rom 3:21—4:25)
James 2:24, 26 - "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone... For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead." (see all of James 2:14-26)
The common but incorrect interpretation, leading to an apparent contradiction between Paul and James:

  • Paul supposedly said: Justification comes not by our good works, but by our faith in Jesus alone.
  • James supposedly said: Justification comes by our good works, not by our faith in God.
Errors with these interpretations:

Paul is not talking about "good works" in the sense of "charitable acts"; rather, he says "works of the Law" (Galatians 2:16; 3:2-12; Romans 3:28), which refers to the Jewish/Mosaic laws on circumcision, sacrifices, dietary restrictions, etc.
When James says "works," he means acts of charity = care for widows, orphans & the poor, love for neighbors, etc. (James 1:27; 2:8; 2:15-16)
Paul is not opposed to "good works" or "charitable actions"; he sees them as necessary consequences (although not the foundation) of authentic Christian living (see Gal 5–6; Rom 12–15).
Conversely, James is not opposed to faith; he presupposes it, and then stresses that authentic faith must be put into action (James 2:14-26).
Paul is not talking primarily about our "faith in Jesus," but rather the "faith of Jesus" in God (i.e., Jesus' own trusting in God; see Gal 2:16, 20; Rom 3:22, 26); based on this foundation, our faith in God/Jesus is a necessary (but secondary) response.
In contrast, James does mean people’s faith, primarily believing in God (2:23) but also believing in Jesus (2:1).
Paul does not presuppose the same definition of "faith" as James does; for Paul, "faith" means "trusting" God, or "entrusting oneself" to God's plans (Rom 4:3-22).
For James, "faith" is more of an intellectual assent to theological truths, e.g., "believing that God is one" (2:19; even demons can "believe" in God's existence).
Paul did not write the word "alone" in Rom 3:28; Martin Luther was the one who added the word "allein" in his German Bible translation.
James does not write "by works alone" but stresses "not by faith alone"; he maintains that both have to go together.

The Example of Abraham,

Interestingly, to argue their points, both James and Paul appealed to the example of Abraham in Gen 15:6, but in a different way.

  • Genesis 15:6 - "And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness."
  • Galatians 3:6-9 - "Just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' 7 so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. 8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.' 9 For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed."
  • Romans 4:1-3, 10-12 - "What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.' ... 10 How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, 12 and likewise the ancestor of the circumcised who are not only circumcised but who also follow the example of the faith that our ancestor Abraham had before he was circumcised." (see all of Rom 4:1-25)
  • James 2:21-23 - "Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (cf. Gen 22:9-18) 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God.
  • In other words, Paul argues that Abraham was justified (in Gen 15) before he was circumcised (in Gen 17),  while James argues that Abraham's faith/trust in God was completed and evidenced by his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (in Gen 22).
Summary:

Rather than contradicting or disagreeing with each other, it seems that James (probably written after Paul's letters) intended to correct some misinterpretations of Paul's teachings that seem to have arisen in some circles of early Christianity.

Definitions of Key Terms:

Paul: "faith" = trusting acceptance of God's will (cf. Rom 4:3-5)
"works of the law" = regulations of the Jewish Torah (cf. Rom 3:28-31)

James: "faith" = intellectual assent to theological truths (2:19)
"works" = good deeds; putting religion into action (1:22-27)

Foundation of Justification,
Reason for Salvation:

PAUL: Jesus' actions: the "faith of Jesus" in God (cf. Rom 3:22, 26)
(i.e., Jesus' trust, that led to his death on the cross)
not our actions: not fulfilling the "works of the Law" (cf. Rom 3:28)

JAMES: adoption: God gave us birth by the word of truth (1:18)
and election: God chose the poor to be heirs of the kingdom (2:5)

Consequences for People,
Results of Being Saved:

PAUL: 1) We need to have faith/trust in Jesus (Rom 1–11)
and
2) We need to live ethically, doing good not evil (Rom 12–15) 1)

JAMES: Our faith in Jesus, and 2) our works of charity;
both are necessary together (2:14-26)

Example of Abraham:

PAUL: Abraham was justified by faith (in Gen 15)
already before he was circumcised (in Gen 17)

JAMES: Abraham's trust in God (declared in Gen 15) was shown
and completed by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (in Gen 22)

5 comments:

a39greenway said...

Faith and Works Are Both Necessary for Salvation

The battle between “faith alone” vs. “faith and works” for salvation has been going on ever since the Protestant Reformation in 1517. The bible verses in question are when Paul says that we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law (Galatians 2:16), and when James says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

Since the divinely inspired Word of God can't contradict itself, many people over the centuries have spent countless hours trying to account for this apparent dichotomy.

Micky said...

Historically, Protestants use the slogan 'faith alone' to express the gospel so clearly explained by the apostle Paul, 'that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law' (Romans 3:28; 4:5-8; Galatians 2:16; 3:10-13, 5:2-4).

An ungodly person is not freed from guilt by the deeds of the law, that is, by loving God and his neighbor (because no one keeps the law perfectly). To become right with God, the sinner must believe in Another, in Christ Jesus.

God freely justifies the person who does not rely on his works and efforts, but wholly trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ. The believer is acquitted, set free and treated as righteous - all because of Christ.

In Romans and Galatians, the apostle Paul has this question in mind: How can a guilty sinner be justified by God? Essentially Paul answers that a sinner is justified by faith in Christ, and not by the merit of his works. That is what we mean by 'sola fide'.

In his letter, James deals with a different question altogether. There is a man who claims to have faith and who assents to the cardinal doctrines of the gospel, including the first, namely, the unity of God. Yet this person is devoid of good works and is full of hypocrisy, so much so, that he insults a poor beggar with pious words without giving him anything.

So, says James, can this sort of faith save him? 'What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?'

James is not asking whether a person is saved by faith plus the merit of his good works. He is asking about the kind of faith that saves.

He mentions two types, the real and the counterfeit. Works distinguish one from the other: 'Show me your faith without your works; and I will show you my faith by my works.'

Real faith is living, manifesting itself in good works; counterfeit faith is dead, barren, the mere assent to doctrine.

James asks, 'Can faith save him?' The answer is simply this: If it is real faith, manifest in good works, yes. But if it is a counterfeit 'faith', no, it cannot save him.

No contradiction exists between Paul and James. The apostle Paul insists that the man 'who does not work but believes' is justified by God. But that is not all. Elsewhere Paul describes the character of true faith - 'faith working through love'.

Rosemi said...

Amen! I agree with this post 100%. Yep, I love the word of God.
I read KJV. It's the one I trust for accuracy.

I want to apologize for being so rude and sloppy with you.

Blessings!

Rosemi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Gormley said...

Thanks, Rosemi!

God bless you!!
Michael Gormley