“Action Figures” By: Andrew Scala, Fiat Ventures

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

There is a battle that exists today in the world, but not in the traditional sense. Its arena is not isolated to one part of the world, nor is it fought across party lines. The weapons used are not guns, missiles, tanks, or submarines. This battle doesn’t even solely take place between good and evil, rich and poor, or men and women. It has to do with this question; when someone is in need or when something tragic happens, what do we do; do we pray?  Do we act?  Do we do both?

As members of a community of Christian faith, we believe in the power of prayer. We believe, as the saying goes, that “prayer changes things.” But the question becomes: “Is that all we have to do?” Is it simply enough for us to send our prayers? If you look at various articles on news sites regarding political and religious figures offering “thoughts and prayers” in response to terrible tragedies, you might think that this is, indeed, enough. However, when you scroll down the page to comment section and begin reading the thoughts of the keyboard elite, you’ll encounter the battle that I speak of. What you’ll find is a myriad of comments that really boil down to one question: “But what about the action?”

There are most likely a few causalities that we can point to in this debate. The first would be that there are people who have no Christian, Islam, Hindi, Buddhist, or other religious identity. Therefore, to them, prayer is rendered both useless and pointless because no one is listening. If these people hear that others are offering “thoughts and prayers”, then they are immediately dismissed as providing no help whatsoever. The second causality lies in the minds of believers. Those who believe in the power of prayer, but also know that prayer must be accompanied by effort, and, more aptly, action. In this space lies St. James’ argument in our second reading.

St. James writes: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?”

I believe that these words are the Biblical embodiment of what young people feel today. Young people are more ready than ever to serve others, to go step into areas that are uncomfortable in nature, and to put our faith into action  Perhaps the challenge for us today is not whether or not to take action; but whether or not to pray along with it. Any cloistered monk or nun would tell you; prayer is effective, and they are able to have a tremendous impact on the world even without leaving the monastery. Like so many things in our faith, the answer is a “both, and”. Both prayer and works.  And think about this; when we pray, God often answers those prayers through others.  And when we act, it is then that God is answering the prayers of others through us!

As St. James writes: “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you FROM my works!”

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