Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
After treating last week the centrality of faith in Christian justification, Pope Benedict today completed the picture by explaining the inherent connection between faith and works, or to use the Holy Father’s language, “faith and charity.”
In this Year of St. Paul, the Pope is working overtime to reinsert the Preacher to the Gentiles into the popular Catholic imagination. There are several reasons for his disappearance from public devotion, but the Holy Father’s recent catechesis reveals the one that concerns him most. By showing how the Church’s teaching regarding faith, justification, and salvation emerges from her deep reading of St. Paul, Pope Benedict is demonstrating that traditional Protestantism does not hold a monopoly on Pauline interpretation. In fact, it never has. The Church was reading St. Paul long before Luther, and unlike the Reformer she has always done so within the context provided by the other apostles, including Peter (and his successors!). If during the Reformation Luther and Calvin separated Paul from Peter, Pope Benedict sees the need to finally reunite them as the two “Princes of the Apostles.”
November 26, 2008
Dear brothers and sisters,
In last Wednesday’s catechesis, I spoke of the question of how man is justified before God. Following St. Paul, we have seen that man is not capable of making himself “just” with his own actions, but rather that he can truly become “just” before God only because God confers on him his “justice,” uniting him to Christ, his Son. And man obtains this union with Christ through faith.
In this sense, St. Paul tells us: It is not our works, but our faith that makes us “just.” This faith, nevertheless, is not a thought, opinion or idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord entrusts to us and that because of this, becomes life in conformity with him. Or in other words, faith, if it is true and real, becomes love, charity — is expressed in charity. Faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.
We have therefore discovered two levels in the last catechesis: that of the insufficiency of our works for achieving salvation, and that of “justification” through faith that produces the fruit of the Spirit. The confusion between these two levels down through the centuries has caused not a few misunderstandings in Christianity.