Gospel: Lk 11:37-41
As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to have a meal with him. So he went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not first wash his hands before dinner. But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.
Our Protestant brethren like to focus their attention on all the passages from the apostle Paul’s letters which state in one way or another that only faith can save us, not works. Here is such a paragraph: “What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith” (Rom 3:27). From such texts Reformers like Luther extrapolated their famous Sola Fides: only faith can save. To this undue extrapolation some critical remarks can be made.
First, the expression “only faith” is not found in the Bible.
Second, the works that cannot save us are only the works of the Law (of Moses). We, Catholics, agree totally on that. But we say that, in order to be saved we still need to perform the works of faith. This is alluded to in today’s first reading when Paul speaks of “faith working through love.”
Third, the Letter of James emphasizes this point very much: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26).
Fourth, at the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46), we shall be judged on our works, not our faith, since some of the saved do not recognize who their Judge is (Mt 25:37-39)