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Pope Benedict on Faith and Works

September 13, 2009

In today’s ZENIT they published the Holy Father’s public address before the midday Angelus that he shared with the pilgrims at Castel Gandolfo:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On this Sunday, the 24th in Ordinary Time, the Word of God puts two crucial questions to us that I would summarize as: “Who is Jesus of Nazareth for you?” and “Does your faith translate into works or not?” The first question we find in today’s Gospel, there where Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). Peter’s answer is clear and immediate: “You are the Christ,” that is, the Messiah, the consecrated one of God, sent to save his people.

Peter and the other disciples, then, unlike the majority of the people, believe that Jesus is not only a great teacher, or a prophet, but much more. They have faith: they believe that God is present in him and works in him. Immediately after this profession of faith, however, when Jesus for the first time openly announces that he must suffer and be killed, the same Peter opposes himself to the perspective of suffering and death. So Jesus must strongly reproach him, to make him understand that it is not enough to believe that he is God, but that, moved by charity, he must follow him along the same road, that of the cross (cf. Mark 8:31-33). Jesus did not come to teach us a philosophy, but to show us a way, indeed, “the” way that leads to life.

This way is love, which is the expression of true faith. If a person loves his neighbor with a pure and generous heart, it means that he truly knows God. If instead a person says that he has faith, but does not love his brothers, he is not a true believer. God does not live in him. St. James clearly affirms this in the second reading of this Sunday’s Mass: “If [faith] is not followed by works, it is dead” (James 2:17). In this regard I would like to quote from the writings of St. John Chrysostom, one of the great Fathers of the Church, which the liturgical calendar invites us to remember today. Commenting on the exact passage from St. James’ Letter, he writes: “One may have a right faith in the Father and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit as well, but if he does not live in the right way, his faith will be useless for salvation. So, when you read in the Gospel: ‘This is eternal life: that they know you, the one true God’ (John 17:3), do not think that this verse is enough to save us: a most pure life and a most pure conduct” (Cited in J.A. Cramer, “Catenae graecorum Patrum in N.T., vol. VIII: In Epist. Cath. et Apoc.,” Oxford 1844).

Dear Friends, tomorrow we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the following day Our Lady of Sorrows. The Virgin Mary, who believed in the Lord’s Word, did not lose her faith in God when she saw her Son rejected, offended and put on a cross. Rather she stayed with Jesus, suffering and praying, to the end. And she saw the radiant sunrise of his resurrection. Let us learn from her to bear witness to our faith with a life of humble service, ready to suffer personally to remain faithful to the Gospel of charity and truth, certain that nothing of what we do will be lost.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[The Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

I extend heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking visitors here today. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus puts a question to his disciples: Who do you say I am? On behalf of the others, it is Peter who answers: You are the Christ. Throughout history, it has been the task of Peter’s successors to continue to make that proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ. And all of us are called to join Peter as we resolve to place the Lord at the centre of our lives. I pray that all of you may grow in your faith and love for the Lord and I invoke his blessings upon you and upon your loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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