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Summary: James features on works showing our faith NOT works driving our faith

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James 2:1-17

Story: One man I admire greatly is Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941).

Maximilian Kolbe was a Catholic priest, who was put in a Nazi concentration camp for his faith.

On May 28, 1941, he was transferred to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. During his time there, he would share his meagre rations of food with those around him - who were hungry.

One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped. All of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day with no food or drink.

At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found and so Fritsch, the Nazi commandant told the prisoners that ten men would be selected to die - in the starvation cell - in place of the one that had escaped.

One of those ten selected was a polish sergeant (Francis Gajowniczek). He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.

As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward. The commandant turned to him and said asked,

"What does this Polish pig want?"

Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant and said, "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children."

The commandant stood silent in disbelief for a moment. He then allowed the sergeant to go back to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.

Each day the guards used to remove the bodies of those who had died. However instead being greeted by the usual sounds of screaming, all they would hear was the sounds of Kolbe and the others in the bunker singing hymns and praying.

When Kolbe could no longer speak due to

hunger and lack of energy, he would whisper

his prayers.

At the end of two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners. Only four prisoners were left alive and Kolbe was one of them.

The guards came in and gave each a lethal injection and on August 14, 1941, Kolbe paid the ultimate price for following his Master.

Kolbe showed his faith in Jesus by the way he lived and died.

He walked the walk – he didn’t just talk the talk!

And practical faith one of the main features of the book of James from which our first reading was taken.

But the book of James has had its critics.

The Great German Reformer Martin Luther called it a “book of straw” because he saw James as standing for justification by “Good Works” against Paul who proclaimed a Gospel of Faith rather than a Gospel of Works

But actually St Paul does speak of the importance of good works in the life of faith when he says (in Ephesians 2:8-10)

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is God’s gift. It is not from works so that no one can boast: for we are his formation, created as we are in Christ Jesus for GOOD WORKS which God previously prepared for us to enjoy life in them (Eph 2:8-10 Berkley)

If you read James carefully you will see there is no dichotomy between James’ Gospel, and Paul’s Gospel.

Both are Gospels of faith.

James fleshes it out by saying that works result from your faith.


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