Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

From the February AD 1997
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin
Selections from the Scripture, the Fathers,
Doctors, Popes, and other great spiritual writers appropriate to the Church in our time.

A homily of St. Augustine on Matthew xxv: 31-46.
On the Need for Good Works as Well as Faith

    Some would say that by faith alone - which, remember, without works is lifeless - you can gain eternal life, even if you fail to keep the commandments. But how can this be reconciled with what our Lord is going to tell those whom He sets off to the left, "Go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels," and with His reason for condemning them, not any want of belief in Him but their failure to do good works? He wanted to make sure that no one would expect to win eternal life by faith alone, which is dead without works. That was why He said that He was going to make a separation among the people of all the nations, who had been using the same pastures without distinction. This separation will make it clear that those who say to Him, "Lord, when did we see you suffering this or that and did not minister to You?" will be those who had believed in Him, but had not taken care to perform good works, as if they were going to attain everlasting life by dead faith alone.

    Do you think that those who fail to perform works of mercy will be the only ones going to hell? What about those who steal what belongs to others? Or what about those who show themselves no mercy in so far as they corrupt the temple of God within them? Can works of mercy be of any use without love? The Apostle says, "If I distribute all my goods to the poor, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing." No one, remember, can love his neighbor as himself if he does not love himself. And "he who loves evil hates his own soul."

    There is no point in deceiving ourselves, as some do, by saying that the Gospel speaks of an everlasting fire, but not of an everlasting burning. These people consider a dead faith sufficient grounds for promising salvation to certain persons "through fire"; and they interpret these words of St. Paul as meaning that those persons are going to pass through the fire, which itself will be eternal. In other words, the fire itself would be everlasting, but the fire's burning, that is, its actions on those persons would not last forever. But the Lord forestalled such an interpretation by concluding His verdict with the words: "And these will go into everlasting burning, but the just into everlasting life. The burning, then, just as the fire, will be everlasting. And Truth Himself tells us that it will not be those whose faith is lacking who will go into it, but those whom He has found wanting in good works.


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