Day 350: Faith and Works

The Book of James


  • This Epistle attributes itself to St. James the Just, the first Bishop of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:13-21), although some scholars believe the Epistle was written in his name by a later author.


  • If written by St. James the Just, then the Epistle would have been composed before he was martyred, about AD 62.

  • If written by a later author, then it was likely written between AD 80 and 100.

  • It was not referred to by the Church Fathers until Origen mentioned the Epistle in the early third century.


  • James is the first of several “catholic Epistles” written for the benefit of a broad Christian audience rather than for a specific local church.

  • It is addressed “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (1:1), which is probably a reference to the Jewish Christians of regions outside Palestine, but it could also mean the universal Church.

Main Themes:

  • James is sometimes called an example of Christian wisdom literature since its style and practical applications of faithful living parallel those of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament.

  • Interspersed among its lead themes are various exhortations on the value of suffering, detachment from riches, dealing with setbacks, prayer, and other topics that pertain to the Christian life.

  • As in St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus, this Epistle emphasizes the need for the lives of Christians to reflect their stated beliefs-for faith to bear fruit in good works.

  • The relationship between faith and works is a major theme in James.

  • “Faith by itself…is dead” (2:17); real faith is reflected in our actions and behavior.

  • The Epistle presents no contradiction to St. Paul’s teaching about justification apart from works.

  • St. Paul was talking about the moral behavior and disposition that are proper to any person of true faith.

  • James also speaks about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (cf. 5:14-15).

  • St. James described the ritual and its effects, and the Church accepts this early testimony as a sign that such anointing is a Sacrament instituted by Christ.

  • Suffering can be made to have redemptive value, but at the same time the Church seeks both physical and spiritual healing for all members of the faithful.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

James 1:1 The probable author of this Epistle was James, a relative of Christ and bishop of the Church in Jerusalem, who was martyred AD 62. Its style is less personal and more homiletic than most of the other Epistles and more closely resembles the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (the Books of Wisdom, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, etc.).

Twelve tribes in the Dispersion: The nation of Israel was comprised of Twelve Tribes representing the lineage of the twelve sons of Jacob, and each had designated territory. In time, most of these tribes gradually lost their identities through war, exile, and intermarriage with foreigners. Many Jews who remained faithful to their tradition formed communities in lands outside of Palestine and were called the Diaspora, Greek meaning “Dispersion.” In the New Testament, Diaspora has a renewed meaning as the New Israel, or those Jews who had received the Gospel and converted to Christianity. The Twelve Apostles represent and judge the Twelve Tribes in the New Israel. (CCC 765, 877, 2586)

Ch 1:2-12 Both Christ and Paul warned of the inevitability of suffering and that carrying our cross is an essential part of the Christian calling. Suffering, which afflicts both the faithful and nonbelievers, can be united to Christ’s suffering and Death as reparation for sins, spiritual purification, and a means of conversion for oneself and for others. (CCC 520-521, 1808)

Ch 1:2 My brethren: A term of familial affection indicating a spiritual brotherhood that includes all Christians united in Christ. (CCC 1, 1655)

Ch 1:5 Wisdom: This gift of the Holy Spirit helps us discern the truth and God’s will for us. James, like Paul, urges us to always pray with confidence. (CCC 216, 2633)

Ch 1:8 Double-minded: This refers to a person whose conviction wavers between trust in God and doubt; the Greek dipsuchos means literally “having two souls.” Lack of trust in God fully-or at least a lack of the desire to trust-renders our less effective. (CCC 2734-2737)

Ch 1:9-10 Christ taught that a person who exalts him- or herself will be humbled, and a person who humbles him- or herself will be exalted (cf. Lk 18:14). Meekness is rewarded in this life but especially in the next; on the other hand, self-aggrandizers have their reward already in worldly praise and comforts. (CCC 716, 1716-1717, 2559)

Ch 1:13-18 Confrontation with evil and suffering is part of our human experience. God, who is All-loving, permits suffering and temptation for a greater good. Scripture relates that in creation God gave us the invaluable gift of freedom. However, the misuse of this gift by our first parents resulted in a fallen human nature, which is inherited by all people. This wounded nature caused by Original Sin results in an inclination toward many forms of selfishness and often sinful action. While God is omnipotent, his intervention in human affairs to prevent evil would make free will superfluous. James taught that the responsibility for sin and evil falls on a wounded nature, easily prone to sins. While God may allow temptation to test our faith, he always provides us the means to resist it. This is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” (CCC 309-311, 2846-2854)

Ch 1:17 The Father of lights: A reference to God as the creator of the celestial bodies. From an earthly perspective, the sun, moon, and stars come and go, appearing and fading, while God himself remains a constant light for those who seek him and love him. The term also suggests the light of discernment and truth that vanquishes the darkness and presents us with everything that is good and perfect. (CCC 212, 2642)

Ch 1:25 Law of liberty: This refers to the New Law of Christ because it frees us by grace to go beyond the requirements of the Mosaic Law to reproduce Christ’s love. (CCC 1837, 1972)

Ch 1:26-27 The true practice of faith must include love and care for the poor and needy. Families should first take care of their own members who are poor, sick, elderly, or disabled, but this care becomes the responsibility of the Christian community when such help is not available. (CCC 2208)

Ch 2:1-13 James gave practical applications to the Great Commandment that underscores the moral law. Favoritism for people of higher social classes is hypocritical for a Christian, who must love all persons unconditionally and equally. If we truly love God and neighbor, we are fulfilling God’s will. The moral law is not an end in itself as much as a preparation and condition to live the charity of Christ spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount. (CCC 1934-1935)

Ch 2:5 Heirs of the kingdom: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Lk 6:20). Poverty serves as an indispensable means to freely give our hearts to Christ and others out of love for God. (CCC 2546, 2547)

Ch 2:7 Blasphemy consists of any thought or word disrespectful of God, whether it is an expression of defiance, hatred, or ridicule. The sin also applies to statements against the Church, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and all that is sacred. To do evil or to abuse people in God’s name is also blasphemous. Blasphemy is a violation of the Second Commandment, which requires that we give God’s name the highest respect and veneration. (CCC 432, 1756, 1856, 2148, 2162)

Ch 2:8 Royal law: The law of the kingdom of God is rooted in love. It perfects the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. (CCC 2196, 2842)

Ch 2:9-13 The Old Law defined sin but did not provide any means to avoid it. Due to Original Sin, it was impossible for anyone to keep the Law to perfection. As Paul says elsewhere, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Mercy triumphs: A merciful heart expresses itself in works of mercy. God’s mercy toward us will be proportionate to the mercy we show to others. (CCC 578, 1971-1972, 2069, 2079)

Ch 2:14-19 Martin Luther, whose dissent started the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, believed this Epistle should be removed from the canon of Scripture because it spoke highly of the necessity of good works. Taking Paul’s teachings on faith out of context, Luther diminished the value of good works. In fact, James is in complete agreement with Paul: Faith is only perfected and made fruitful in doing deeds of charity. It is true that grace and salvation are free gifts of God that we cannot merit, but it is also true that faith must be freely lived through works that manifest love for Christ. We must be both “hearers” and “doers” of the Word of God. (CCC 162, 1021, 1987-1994, 2005, 2010, 2447)

Ch 2:14 This is the passage that perhaps disturbed Martin Luther the most: “So faith by itself, it has no works, is dead.” James emphasizes this point very clearly: It is not enough simply to “believe,” to give intellectual assent to the message of the Gospel and the rest of Sacred Scripture, but rather it has to be lived and practiced. To merely offer good wishes to someone in need without doing what is possible to fill that need makes faith a hollow shell. “Dead” faith is associated with mortal sin, which cuts us off our relationship with God and, therefore, any action is rendered to be without merit. James’ discussion of this topic may be an effort to refute some who, like Luther, took Paul’s statements about justification by faith to an erroneous extreme. (CCC 162, 1021, 2001-2005)

Ch 2:18-19 You have faith and I have works: If a person has faith but not good works, his or her faith is ineffective since at best it is nothing more than academic. If a person does good works, however, those deeds express a living faith. Thus, faith is incomplete unless it is practiced with good works.

Even the demons believe: The devil knows that “God is one” and gives intellectual assent to some theological truths, yet his works are evil, since his mission is to undermine Christ’s work of redemption. This shows that a true life of faith is predicated upon words of charity. (CCC 1814-1816, 2044)

Philippians 3:1-6 Some of the Jewish Christians believed that Gentiles should accept the Law of Moses and be circumcised (“mutilate the flesh”) before they could be baptized. For the first few decades after Christ, the Christian Faith was considered a sect of Judaism. Paul, a Jew himself, insisted that circumcision was not required for Gentiles because Christ’s Sacrifice had liberated the world from the Old Law and ushered in the New Law of charity and grace. At the Council of Jerusalem AD 49/50, Peter and the Apostles agreed with Paul on this issue (cf. Acts 15), but the controversy continued in some circles. (CCC 1963, 1150)

Ch 3:3 True circumcision: This is Paul’s term for the “circumcision of the heart,” or the conversion received through Baptism. (CCC 527)

Ch 3:6 The word “church” here refers to the universal community of faith; in other usage, it can refer to the local church community or to the faithful assembled at liturgy. (CCC 752)

Ch 3:7-11 No pleasure, gift, talent, or riches can rival the invaluable blessing of possessing Christ. As Christian disciples, we are expected to put everything at the service of our relationship with Christ. The rewards in this life and the next make any sacrifice negligible. This total gift of self, which is at the heart of Christian discipleship, will always be inspired and accompanied by God’s grace. (CCC 133, 426-429, 1006, 1522)

Ch 3:9-11 Righteousness under the Law is contrasted with the Christlike holiness given by God through faith. The former is powerless to save us, while the latter is unlimited in power to save and sanctify.

Power of his resurrection: Paul often emphasized the “power” of God through his mighty acts, the greatest of which was the raising of Christ from the dead. (CCC 648, 989)

Ch 3:12-16 Growing in holiness always involves our cooperation with grace and a correspondence to grace through an ongoing struggle. Our eyes must be fixed on the prize, which is eternal life; therefore, we must spare no effort, just as an athlete competes to reach a goal. (CCC 824, 827, 1030, 1054)

Ch 3:17-21 Christians are citizens of Heaven. We await our entrance into everlasting life, when Christ will change our material bodies into radiant and immortal bodies. Imitating the virtues of Christ and his saints with the aid of grace is the best means to progress toward this reward. (CCC 556, 999-1000, 1003, 2796)

Ch 4:1-7 We know that, upon our Lord’s return, he will glorify us in both body and soul if we remain faithful. This is cause for great hope and joy since we will one day see Christ face-to-face with our resurrected bodies. In the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer is largely a prayer of praise and thanksgiving; the word eucharist itself means “thanksgiving.” (CCC 1352-1354, 2633, 2637)

Ch 4:2-3 Almost as an aside, Paul urged reconciliation among women who had been involved in a dispute.

Clement: This may refer to St. Clement of Rome, who later became the fourth bishop of Rome.

The book of life: A theoretical listing in Heaven of all the saints, compiled by God and known by him alone. (CCC 2706)

Ch 4:8-9 Everything that is good, just, and virtuous reflects in a very finite and analogous way the goodness of God and thus can give us a glimmer of the glory of God. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, the existence of God can be deduced by observing the order, motion, causation, and beauty of the world around us. For the pagans, this can lead to faith; for the Christian, such observations confirm and build faith. (CCC 31-35, 1803)

Ch 4:10-23 The Philippians had been generous in supplying Paul’s needs, and he assured them that they will be amply rewarded. His rejoicing from the beginning of this letter carries through to the very end, as Paul explained he had learned to be satisfied with whatever happened to him. While the Greek Stoic thinkers held a similar philosophy of accepting whatever good or trouble came their way, their belief system let them away from a Christian perspective. Instead, Paul’s contentment came from the conviction and experience that all good is preeminently contained in Christ. With Christ living in him, there was no obstacle that could not be overcome. (CCC 2427, 2648)

Ch 4:13 God’s omnipotence and his interventions in the world is a great mystery. Despite our weakness, God can choose to make us strong and gifted so we may do his will and manifest his presence to the world. Thus, God should receive the praise and glory for anything that he accomplishes through us. (CCC 273, 308, 1460)

Ch 4:22 Caesar’s household: Another mention of Paul’s success in prison. Apparently, even some of Caesar’s servants or possibly family had embraced the Christian Faith.

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

  • It is DAY 350!!

  • You know what that means, you can do math

  • We’re a few days away from the conclusion

  • We have actually departed from the HISTORICAL BOOKS

  • We concluded The Acts of the Apostles yesterday

  • Today we are starting, exclusively, the Letters

  • Then we have the Book of Revelation a little over a week from now

  • Today is the conclusion of St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians


  • OH MY GOSH!!

  • We have left behind Acts of the Apostles

  • Today we start the Letter of James

  • It’s a very short Letter, only two days

  • Today is Chs 1-2 and tomorrow will be Chs 3-5

  • So who is James?

  • Like he says, “Servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”

  • According to St. Jerome, James was the son of Cleopas and Mary, the wife of Cleopas

  • It says VERY CLEARLY in Scripture that Mary, the wife of Cleopas, was the mother of James and Joseph

  • So there is a more recent tradition that um…well…we could go through this whole thing…

  • BUT…

  • We would say this:

  • The ancient TRADITION of the Church has ALWAYS BEEN that Mary was a virgin

  • She had NO OTHER CHILDREN other than Jesus

  • We talked about this a couple other times when we read the Gospels

  • And it said, “the brothers of Jesus”

  • And we learned that the Greek word used was ADELPHOI (Do you remember learning this? Go back and read Day 155: Jesus is Lord and Day 313: The Ark of the New Covenant in The Bible in a Year Study Guide to learn again why Jesus DID NOT HAVE BROTHERS OR SISTERS!! 😁)

  • Adelphoi could mean brothers, relatives, cousins, etc.


  • Even St. Jerome in the 3rd and 4th century was like, “No no, James is a cousin of Jesus. He is an adelphoi of Jesus and he is the son of Mary, the wife of Cleopas, which is already indicated in Scripture.”


  • James is the Bishop of Jerusalem

  • We got that going

  • Ok…

  • So he is writing in Jerusalem to the Tribes of the Dispersion

  • Basically to all those Jewish Christians who are outside that region of Palestine

  • This is…mmmmmm

  • Jeff Cavins talks about The Letter of James

  • He has a Bible Study about it called James: Pearls of Wise Living (Which you can find here if you are so inclined 😁 I know someone on the Facebook Group is going to ask )


  • Because JAMES is SO GOOD

  • And the Bible Study is GREAT

  • Because Jeff is GREAT

  • BUT…

  • The Bible Study is REALLY GREAT because the Letter of St. James is JUST PHENOMENAL!!

  • OH MY GOSH!!

  • James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…”


  • What should we highlight?

  • St. James talks about SO MANY THINGS in these first two chapters that are worth REFLECTING ON and PRAYING FOR

  • It’s almost like the New Testament version of the Book of Proverbs

  • Where almost every line is like a little gem

  • Or like Jeff Cavins calls it, a little PEARL that we can take and apply for our lives

  • For example…

  • James 1:12-13, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the brown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one…”



  • James 1:19, “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.”



  • St. James talks about TRUE RELIGION and FALSE RELIGION

  • James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.”


  • We think, “What does our speech have anything to do with belonging to true religion, belonging to the Lord for real in the depths of our heart?”

  • Well, St. James will go on tomorrow to talk a little bit more about how our SPEECH reveals the TRUTH OF OUR HEART

  • And how we will be LIABLE for EVERY WORD THAT IS UTTERED


  • Go read James 1:26 again

  • How often do we say words that ought not to be said?

  • OH MY GOSH!!

  • We just say stuff

  • We say things of gossip

  • We say things of detraction

  • We take the Lord’s name in vain


  • And we realize that when we do that, we are demonstrating that WE DO NOT BELONG TO THE LORD


  • James 1:27, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

  • Yeah

  • Taking care of those that no one else is taking care of

  • That is what TRUE RELIGION is all about

  • We have this BIG teaching in James


  • This is really interesting

  • Fr. Mike doesn’t want to be polemical (one sec…just looking that up…wow that’s a great SAT word…carry on 😉) about this


  • When St. Paul is writing about WORKS he is talking about WORKS OF THE LAW

  • Remember that whenever St. Paul is writing and saying, “You are not justified by works. You are justified by faith…”

  • Yes, he is talking about WORKS OF THE LAW

  • He is talking about the OLD TESTAMENT COVENANT

  • The Old Testament Covenant DOES NOT JUSTIFY ANYONE

  • The New Testament Covenant IS WHAT JUSTIFIES

  • Jesus DOES justify us

  • Again…

  • We are saved BY grace THROUGH faith WORKING ITSELF OUT IN love

  • This is the FULL FORMULATION of the Catholic vision of what Salvation REALLY IS

  • Saved by GRACE…yes, God’s GIFT

  • Through FAITH…yes, our response to God’s GIFT

  • Working itself out in LOVE

  • As Scripture makes it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR TODAY…


  • Faith CANNOT save us

  • James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

  • Fr. Mike does not mean to make this into an argument

  • BUT…

  • One of the principles of the Protestant Reformation was FAITH ALONE

  • Sola Fide

  • The CHALLENGING THING about this is that the ONLY TIME those words FAITH and ALONE are TOGETHER in Scripture are RIGHT HERE in James 2:24

  • “You see that a man is justified by words and NOT by faith alone.”


  • Fr. Mike is not trying to make a case

  • He’s kind of trying to convince you

  • He really believes that Jesus founded the Catholic Church (Just like I do!! 😁)

  • So of course he’s trying to convince you

  • He believes that every person will find the FULLNESS OF FAITH in the Catholic Church

  • BUT…

  • All of our Protestant brothers and sisters

  • All of our friends who are separated brethren in Christ

  • Fr. Mike is NOT trying to beat you over the head about this

  • Fr. Mike DOES BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus is CALLING YOU to become Catholic

  • BUT…

  • That is not the point

  • The point right now is to explain about how in Galatians, Corinthians, and other places where St. Paul is saying that it's all about FAITH and NOT about WORKS

  • “So I hear you Catholics talking about WORKS all the time.”

  • Well this is one of the places if you want to know where did Catholics get the TRUTH that we need BOTH FAITH AND WORKS

  • We are NOT saved by works


  • That is important

  • BUT…

  • Where is the place that Catholics get the idea that we NEED faith AND works?

  • Well here we are

  • This is one of the many places

  • James Ch 2

  • Not trying to cause an argument

  • Not trying to beat anyone over the head

  • Just trying to show here’s where we get that from

  • Fr. Mike loves the Lord Jesus

  • Fr. Mike loves our brothers and sisters who are Catholic and our brothers and sisters who are not Catholic

  • Fr. Mike thinks that EVERYONE IN THE WORLD should be Catholic (Yes, I totally agree😁)

  • That’s all Fr. Mike is saying

  • Now on to St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

  • Consider how St. Paul makes it SO CLEAR that EVERYTHING ELSE IN LIFE is WORTHLESS when compared to Jesus

  • Philippians 3:7, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

  • He goes on to make it even more intense

  • Philippians 3:8-9, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him..”


  • WHY??

  • Because that word REFUSE is actually the word for, we’ll say…DUNG🤮

  • I count EVERYTHING


  • Every GOOD THING I can do in the world

  • Every POSSESSION I could possibly have

  • Every ACCOMPLISHMENT I could possibly have

  • I count that all to be…FERTILIZER let’s say…when compared to JESUS CHRIST

  • Philippians 3:9-11, “...not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his Resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”


  • SO GOOD!!

  • We are not saying one or the other

  • We are NOT saying faith OR works

  • We are saying faith AND works are SO SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT


  • St. Paul’s last exhortation in Philippians 4:4-7, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

  • The last words that St. Paul has for us today in the Letter to the Philippians are also SO GOOD

  • It’s about what we feed ourselves with

  • Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

  • There’s this psychological principle called the LAW OF EXPOSURE

  • Those things that you think about, those things you expose yourself to, those are things that SHAPE YOUR HEARTS AND SHAPE YOUR MINDS

  • That is one of the reasons why for the last 350 DAYS we have been listening to God’s Word

  • The LAW OF EXPOSURE is that if we think about things that are good and pure and beautiful and excellent then those things TAKE ROOT IN OUR LIVES and we become LIKE THEM

  • That’s what we’ve been striving after

  • Not JUST to learn more about God

  • Although that is SO IMPORTANT



  • Because that’s what God desires

  • He desires us to have HEARTS LIKE HIM

  • That’s what Fr. Mike is praying for

  • Fr. Mike is praying for all of us, separated, brethren, those who are not even Christian yet, those who may be in RCIA on their way to be Baptized

  • That one day all of us may be united in Christ Jesus, our Lord, by the Power of the Holy Spirit in One Body, giving GLORY TO THE FATHER




Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. Thank you so much. Another day! Thank you, Lord, for another day! For this next step. For the Letter of James, for the conclusion of St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, we thank you God. We ask you to please help us to put these into practice. Help us to put this instruction into action in our lives. Help us to be not only hearers of the Word, but also doers of your Word. Lord God, let this time we’ve spent listening to your Word not simply wash over us and we just forget it and are unchanged by it, but help us to put this into practice. To put the love in our hearts into action in our lives. Help us to do all of this in the name of Jesus and for the glory of God the Father. Amen.”