Vatican City (AsiaNews) - If faith alone is sufficient to justify us, meaning to make us just before God, "the consequences of faith that is not embodied in love are disastrous." The relationship between faith and works, which "has caused not a few misunderstandings among Christians," was addressed today by Benedict XVI during the general audience, strongly characterized as ecumenical through the presence, in the Paul VI hall, of Aram I, catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians (located in Antelias, in Lebanon), who is paying a visit to the Vatican and met with the pope on Monday.
Benedict XVI and Aram I - accompanied by a dozen bishops - entered the hall side by side, and, in front of the approximately 9,000 people present, exchanged a greeting, in which both emphasized how the "fraternal visit is an occasion to strengthen the bonds that exist," "a further step in the journey toward full unity, which is the objective of all Christians and a gift of the Lord." The pope again recalled "the many martyrs" that the Armenian community has numbered in its fidelity to Christianity, and thanked Aram I for his efforts in dialogue groups, beginning with the mixed commission.
Like Benedict XVI, Aram I also spoke in English, in an improvised greeting in which he emphasized "the bonds that connect the two apostolic Churches" and the "communion of traditions and values" that make it possible to be look to the journey toward full unity. Aram I finally highlighted the importance of "the shared effort of evangelization in Europe, in the Middle East, and in the world, to bring peace to a world that is so tormented by conflicts and by hatred."
In his address to those present at the audience, Benedict XVI, continuing to illustrate the thought of St. Paul, reiterated the principle that "a man becomes just before God only because God gives us justice by uniting us with his Son. Salvation does not come from our works, but from faith. But "faith is not an opinion, it is communion with Christ, and thus becomes life, it becomes conformity with Jesus, in other words becomes charity, it expresses itself." "Without this fruit, faith would be dead."
Therefore "the consequences are disastrous of a faith that is not embodied in love, because it reduces itself to arbitrariness and subjectivism for ourselves and for our brothers." And "the opposition is unfounded" that some set up between the theology of St. Paul, about salvation being obtained through faith, and that of St. James, which requires works. This opposition - which has been central in the theological dispute between Catholics and Protestants - was defined by the pope as "a misunderstanding" and "confusion," giving rise to the problem of "justification" that was at the origin of Luther's schism. Recalling the representation of the last judgment, the pope clarified that "Christian ethics is not a form of moralism, it is not born from a system of commandments, but is a consequence of our friendship with Christ.
In reality, while Paul says that "faith is necessary and sufficient," James "highlights its consequences in life," when he affirms that "faith without works is dead." And Paul himself, in the letter to the Galatians, "highlights the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works," when he speaks of "faith working through love." At the same time, Benedict XVI commented, "what would a liturgy be, if it were directed to the Lord alone, without also becoming service of our brothers?" St. Paul himself says that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil." "This," he concluded, "must guide our daily lives."
Finally, today's was the first "environmental" audience: the solar panels on the roof of the Paul VI hall were switched on, providing part of the energy necessary to light and heat the room.