…and I already blew the fast without even thinking about it. One thing about Lent – it really encourages humility. (I’ve always been really proud of my humility.)
It reminds me of why I get so irritated with arguments pro and con about sola fide
. Any straightforward reading of scripture makes it clear that certain standards of behavior are expected of me. After all, Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17) and said the earth would pass away before the law was abolished (Luke 16:17). Paul (1 Cor 6:9-10) lists a whole mess of things that will keep us out of the kingdom of heaven; James (Jam 2:17) tells us faith without works is dead. The fathers reiterate the same theme over and over again. My salvation indeed depends on what sort of person I am.
I know I have to become righteous to inherit eternal life. Having been myself for quite some number of years, however, I also know with absolute certainty that it’s not gonna happen. Were I to receive daily eucharist for the next 12,000 years and say a million rosaries, I still wouldn’t get there. It’s like the old Caedmon’s Call song:You know I ran acrossAn old box of lettersWhen I was bagging up some clothes for goodwillBut you know I had to laughAt the same old strugglesThat plagued me then are plaguing me still
I have no alternative whatsoever but to keep plugging along and trust in God to make it all work out in the end. Is it all up to me? Yeah – it pretty much says so. Church teaching has always emphasized personal holiness Is it all up to God? Yeah. I will never quit sinning – I am sure I have the grace and the capacity, but I just don’t “have what it takes.” Is it faith alone, or is it faith plus works? The only answer I can come up with is “Yes.”
Is that a self contradiction? Not really; it’s an observation
. Two things that are both observably true can’t contradict each other. If they appear to contradict each other, then there is something wrong in my understanding of the world. Whenever I teach Intro Chem, one difficult thing to get across to people is the wave / particle duality of the electron. “Is it a wave or is it a particle? It can’t be both. They’re mutually exclusive!” Well, no they aren’t. An electron simply is what it is, and electrons have been perfectly happy being themselves since God made the Big Bang bang. They’re not going to stop being electrons; I need to stop and change my paradigm. I may not be able to visualize an electron the way I visualize a hamster, but if I accept it for what it is, I can work with it.
I hear too many facile explanations that try to reconcile the apparent contradiction between “faith alone” and “faith plus works” without changing the paradigm – trying to make it “understandable” as if it has to fit the mold of my worldly preconceptions. They have always struck me as contrived and hollow.
The Divine Mercy is what it is. I may not be able to quite wrap my head around it, but if I take it on its own terms – if I accept the notion that the apparent contradiction is my problem and not the problem of the thing itself – then I can get somewhere.
the “living with contradiction” guff you hear from so many pulpits these days, which is usually an excuse for contradicting scripture and the historic teachings of the church. It’s living with something inexplicable that you know is true based on what you can clearly see for yourself. I may not quite grasp the relation between faith and works, but I can see it in my own life and the lives of others.
And I do
have an answer to the question: “You say it’s both faith alone and faith plus works? How the heck does that work?” The answer is that it seems to work pretty well. Praise be to God always.