There is a moment in cinematic history when I wonder whether Audrey Hepburn was speaking for God.
She was singing, actually, in the movie My Fair Lady. And her song is addressed to a would-be suitor: “Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words. I get words all day through.”
So much of my business is words. I speak them. I write them. (I’m typing them now.) I pray them. And I say I am doing it all for God.
Yet, at bedtime, when I review my day, I often see a wide gap between my words and my actions. Then it is as if God is quoting the old song to me: “Don't talk of stars burning above! / If you're in love, show me!”
Faith, like love, is made visible in deeds. That is true in a man-woman relationship. It’s true in the me-God relationship.
If we say we love God, but we don’t back it up with our works, we are not telling the whole truth. We’re just making a pious wish.
We need to show God our love. And I mean that just the way I said it. God does not need our good works. He is all-powerful. He can do what he wants to do without our help. But he knows us. He made us. And he knows that we need to do good in order to be good. We are just built that way.
This is the constant theme of the letter of James: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? … So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead … For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:14, 17, 26).
Faith expressed in “words, words, words” isn’t enough. James points out that even the demons have faith, and they tremble. Our words need to take flesh in our world.
I wonder how much faith we have when I see the evils that cry out to be overcome — the unnecessary suffering of poverty, loneliness, drug abuse, and human trafficking. We Christians have more than enough means to overcome these plagues. Look at our numbers! Yet they remain.
They remain because of that yawning gap between the faith I claim in my words, words, words and the deeds that I do — or rather do not — throughout my day.
James was onto something. He knew that good works were good for us — that they were like food or oxygen for our life of faith. Saint Paul knew it, too. In his famous letter on faith, the letter to the Romans, he never said we could get by on faith alone. What is necessary, he said, is “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5 and 16:26).
If we believe — if we are in love — we need to show it. God wants that, just as Audrey Hepburn’s character did. But he wants it not for His own good, but for ours.
We cannot solve all the world’s problems in a day. We cannot solve even one of them in the course of a lifetime. But each of us can do something. And if we DO it in faith, God will work wonders through our deeds.
What can we do today — now — before we have time to get distracted? Call the parish? Commit to the program that needs our help?
Do not wait. Pick up