40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Faith vs. Works

“Catholics don’t think Jesus’ death was enough.  They think you have to do good works to get into heaven.”

That’s just plain silly.  Of course Jesus’ death was and is enough!  The thing is that we don’t believe in just giving lip service to our faith.  Our protestant brothers and sisters believe in something called “sola fide“, which is Latin for “by faith alone”.  (Strange that protestants have a belief that’s described by a Latin phrase, but that’s a topic for another day.)  We Catholics just don’t think it’s OK to say “I believe in Jesus” and then go about our business any old way we please.  Satan believes in Jesus.  He doesn’t agree with Him, but he believes in Him.  Satan knows that Jesus is the Son of God, but trust me, you won’t run into Beelzebub  when you arrive in paradise.

Remember when Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me”?  He wanted us to not just say we love Him, but to show it in our daily lives.  He often told sinners to “go and sin no more”.  He clearly expects something from us.  Salvation is a process, not a single event.

One of my favorite New Testament writers is Saint James.  On this subject he writes:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?i  If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  jSo also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.  (James 2: 14)

James lays it out pretty clearly.  Faith without works is dead.  Paul writes to the Philippians ,

“So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  (Phil 2:12)

A teacher of mine, when I was in formation put it this way.  When someone gives us a gift (which salvation is) you want to reciprocate.  But what do you give to a Son of God who has everything?  He gave us the answer Himself.  “Whatever you do the the least of my brothers you do for me.”

On a personal note, I was raised in the Baptist Church.  In my late teens I answered an altar call and stood in front of the congregation to declare my belief in Jesus Christ.  This is called “being saved” or being “born again”.  Then I was baptized.  My place in heaven was secure.

But I noticed that the Baptists had so many rules.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the Catholic Church has nothing on the Baptists when it came to rules.  Every sermon (and we went to Sunday school on Sunday morning, then to services, then we were back again on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening for more.), every sermon was full of hell fire and brimstone and thou shalt nots.  Besides the Ten Commandments we were told not to drink, not to smoke, not to dance, and lots of other things.  I was confused.  If I was “saved” why did I have to live such a spartan lifestyle.

Lucky for me I met and married a good Catholic girl and the rest is history.  (BTW, today is her birthday.  Happy Birthday, honey!)

So, no, we don’t believe we can buy our way into heaven and we don’t believe we can add anything to the price Jesus paid for us.  But we do believe that we need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.  In this holy season of Lent, we’re called to do something extra.  We’re expected to help those less fortunate (not just in Lent but all year ’round).  That’s the Catholic way of life.

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