Faith Without Actions

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

When Christ finally reaches the tree, He tells Zacchaeus to get down and invites Himself to dinner. Eventually, Christ rewards Zacchaeus with those words we hear Christ speak to others so often, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

Let’s break down the event as it pertains to us: desire, willingness, action and triumph. Zacchaeus heeded the universal call to seek God and desired to do so, he was willing to take the steps (in this case, limbs) necessary, he actually reached up and took hold of the branches and hoisted himself up, and, impervious to the grumbling of the crowd, Christ responded justly and charitably, as always.

Desire — we generally have it. We want to get to Mass every week or every day. We hanker to say the rosary or make a holy hour. The desire is there. Who, after all, doesn’t yearn for a life of happiness and one free from the pain of sin?

Willingness — sound the tocsin, for we fail too frequently in this department. Does this sample dialogue sound familiar? Mom — “Wake up son, time to get ready for Mass.” Son — “Grumble, grumble, grumble.” Pathetic. All he has to do is wake up and put on some clothes. Happens across the world every day. Willingness comes only after one sees the requirement. People sometimes fall into a swivet when they hear what God wants: “I want to be holy, but I’ll have to go to Mass every week?” “We can’t use whatever form of birth control we want?” “I can’t eat meat on Friday?” Conversion comes to a screeching halt as soon as willingness falters.

Action — perhaps the most critical element in the equation. Sure, Zacchaeus might have scraped his fingers, but he needed to expend the effort to accomplish the task, not of climbing, but of seeing God face-to-face. He might have been a little reticent about climbing a tree, but it was necessary and so he did it. We sometimes look at the pain involved in increasing in holiness and cringe. Taking the time to stop by the chapel every day can certainly be a test, but the action of stopping is half the battle. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Faith without works is empty. The carrying out of the desire and willingness leads to one thing and one thing only:

Triumph — God’s response to our effort, His action. Think of the benefits gained from attending Mass regularly, from safeguarding marital chastity, from fasting on Friday’s, from setting aside time for daily prayer. I could rhapsodize ad infinitum about the benefits and joys which God saves for those who seek Him and follow Him, because the font of those graces is precisely that: infinite love.

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