18 February, Friday — Best Efforts

Friday of Week 6 in Ordinary Time

Jas 2:14-24,26
Mk 8:34-9:1

Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead. 

How much is enough? When Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”, where do we draw the line and say, “This is my best, I can do no more”?

I was once told by a spiritual director that I had to be led by love when following Christ. That without love, all my faith, and works of faith, would be for nothing. She warned that I would burn out if I tried to do this without love. She was 100% right! Because I did try to take up my cross without love. I pushed hard. I persevered. I prayed. But I ended up tired, burned out and resentful, with not very much to show for it. I don’t think that this was what James was alluding to, in this passage from scripture.

I think a lot of us, when reading James for the first time, are confused between the result and the process of getting to it. James says, “See how a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone”. He doesn’t say, “See how a person is justified by the success of his works, and not by faith alone”. That was certainly my problem — this tendency to be results-oriented and a lack of humility to not even consider that love might be necessary for the long haul. Looking back now, I see that my best efforts were really all I could’ve done, and that failure was always going to be part of the journey. Also, if you don’t love the cross you take up – be it a cause, the people, or that person in your life – you’ll become resentful once the effort becomes too much. And it will overwhelm.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”. You will need love. You will need faith. And you will certainly need the humility to recognise that you will fail; and that the grace of God will give you the strength to pick yourself up and go the distance.    

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the humility to recognise that failure and faith are all part of the process of taking up our cross.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people – family, teachers and spiritual directors – that God puts in our lives to help us on our respective faith journeys.

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