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By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Catholic Culture, April 07, 2020
Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.
In my commentary on the books of the Bible, we now turn to the brief letter of St. James and the even briefer letter by his brother, St. Jude. After spending so much time with St. Paul, this makes for a healthy combination. For if Paul repeatedly emphasizes the necessity of faith in Christ, both James and Jude warn us not to forget the importance of the works that we do. It is not that Paul himself does not say a great deal about how Christians are to conduct themselves, but a few of his most famous passages were seized upon by a neurotic Martin Luther so he could stop worrying about his manner of life, and these have often been interpreted in isolation under the misleading slogan of “sola fide”, or “faith alone”.
Before I take up the Letter of James, which Luther is said to have torn out of his Bible and discarded as apocryphal—along with Jude, Hebrews and Revelation—I should briefly explain the Catholic distinction between justification and sanctification, so that there need be no misunderstanding. The Church teaches that the sacrifice of Christ for our sins has justified all persons before God, through Our Lord’s superabundant acceptance of the punishment due in justice for sin. Justification, then is universal. God’s Son paid the debt for sin; he did so through a supreme act of mercy which demonstrates that justice and mercy in God, though often viewed by us so differently, are really always the same thing, both expressions of the same Love. ….