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According to Paul, we are saved by grace.  Grace is a free gift that is given to us not because we deserve it, but because God, out of love, has given it to us. No matter what we do, having faith, constantly repenting, getting baptized, doing good, it is never enough. We still fall short and so it is by grace in the end that we are saved.

Given than, then, why did the Apostle James write “. . . show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) and that, “. . . faith without works is dead” (James 2:20)? What is the relationship between grace and works?

There are two ways of viewing grace and works. The first is that grace results from works. That is, God rewards us with His grace because of our works. I find this view untenable because it violates the understanding that grace is a free gift from God; that we are saved by grace even after all we do. Thus, would say that:


That must mean that works flow from grace. Works are the things that we do because of Grace, not to earn God’s grace (an unnecessary act).  The “works” that we do aren’t conscious actions that we undertake to increase our faith or to “earn” grace. Rather, they are the acts that flow naturally from the core of our very being because of God’s grace. God’s grace in essence makes us new beings, one that are capable of showing His love through our actions. Then we could say that:

Works = f (Grace)

So grace is not a function of works, but rather works are a function of grace.

Our actions as monks are what make grace come alive in our lives.  I try to exercise every day to keep my physical body strong and to keep all of my “parts” in working order.  In the same way I engage in study and prayer, lecito divina, acts of kindness and compassion, and constant repetition of the Jesus prayer every day to keep my spiritual “muscles” in shape. These actions keep me in tune with Spirit so that I am a vessel through with God can act.

Fellow monks, I challenge you to find ways to exercise your faith, to do works that flow from God’s grace, and to live lives of study, prayer, contemplation, and service. At the same time remember that Jesus never asked us to live contemplative lives, to study, to engage in lecito divina, participate in other practices that seem to be monastic. What He did ask us to do was to love each other . . . that, of all that we do, is the most important.

CCGPC Columnist and Blogger

Ministry of St. Brendan and (++Abbott) to the Monastery of St. Brigit & St. Brendan

Archbishop ++David S. Murphy

D.D., D.M., Ph.D., M.B.A., B.A., CPA, CFS.

o.s.p., m.s.b., s.o.e., s.o.s.b.n.b.