549 What good is it if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Day 549 Thursday September 16, 2021
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
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? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. - James 2:14-18
A Reflection by Jim Fredericks
Almost all of us can remember where we were that morning.
I was in Los Angeles. I awoke about 5:30 am and turned on my radio in the hope of catching a little news. I had a busy day ahead of me. The day before, Monday, September 10, 2001, I had welcomed a group of Buddhists from Japan to my university.
There were about ten of them if I remember correctly. These Buddhists had come to Los
Angeles as my guests in a spirit of dialogue and collaboration. My colleagues in the Theology Department were eager to meet the Buddhists who had come from so far. We were to spend several days learning from one another in a dialogue about Christian faith and Buddhist practice. I was excited to think that several of the Buddhists were interested in the Second Vatican Council and how Catholic theologians were contributing to the renewal of the Church. (Take it from me: Buddhists need renewal too).
As I lay in bed, the announcer on the radio suddenly said, “Reports are coming in that a plane has struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.”
At the time, I remembered that a prop-plane had nicked the Empire State Building back in the 1940s. For some reason, I got up and turned on the TV. Minutes later, the South Tower was struck. Minutes after that, the Federal Government shut down LAX.
My guests from Japan were stranded.
I could not understand why anyone would drive a jumbo jet into a skyscraper. But I was quite clear about one thing: the Lord had entrusted these Buddhist friends into my hands for their safekeeping.
A little later that morning, I got in to see the dean of my college to discuss our responsibility for our guests. I told him: “I have no idea how long the delegation from Japan will be stranded here.”
My dean assured me that he would make available whatever extra funds we needed to keep our guests in their hotel for the duration. I remember asking him, “Do you have the money?” He said, “No, I don’t. But you worry about Buddhists. I’ll worry about money.”
(Loyola Marymount Chapel)
Still later that morning, I heard that there would be a mass celebrated in the university chapel. I called Campus Ministry and told them about the Buddhists. Seats were reserved for them in the front, very near the altar. At the beginning of mass, Father Bob Lawton, the President of Loyola Marymount University, turned to the Buddhists and expressed his gratitude that they had come to be with our community at this difficult time.
I also remember the response to the psalm that day.
Shepherd me Oh Lord, beyond my wants,
beyond my fears, from death into life.
One of the Buddhists whispered a translation into Japanese and there was a murmur among my Buddhist friends. How does this ancient Hebrew poem fall on the ears of a Buddhist, far from home, caught up in an event that, even that day, we all knew would change the history of the world?
On my way home, at the end of a long and difficult day, I drove past the gas station where I went to have my oil changed. The owner of the station was a guy from Egypt. Eduard was a Copt – a member of the ancient Christian community in Egypt. He kept a holy card of the Blessed Virgin in his office.
“Eduard, are you okay?”
In reply, Eduard said,
“Father, someone threatened me this afternoon. I guess they think I’m a Muslim.”
The following Sunday, I celebrated mass at the parish in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles. Joe Nakamura was at mass that day. In late December of 1941, when he was about 20 years old, Joe was arrested with the rest of his family and “evacuated” to Manzanar (or maybe Tule Lake or Poston). He was later released from camp so he could enlist in the US Army and serve as a translator in the Pacific. I think Joe got a lot of medals for his service to his country.
Angie, Joe’s wife, was at mass too. Vince and Agnes Doi were there. I remember seeing Bernadette Nishimura and Teresita Okita as well. I looked into their faces and tried to imagine them as youngsters during the War in the internment camps. At that moment I realized how much I had come to love them all as their priest over the years.
I didn’t mince words during my homily.
I told them about my stranded Buddhist friends from Japan and I told them about my mechanic, the Coptic Christian from Egypt, and the threats he had received.
Then I said to Joe and Angie, Vince, Agnes, Bernadette, Teresita and their kids and their grandkids, “Our country has been attacked. Now, once again, America is frightened.
No one knows better than you do what America is capable of doing when it is frightened. The time has come for us to put our faith to work in building bridges.”
My Buddhist friends taught me and my colleagues wonderful things during their visit to my university the week the world changed for us all, twenty years ago. My friends taught me that the Buddha’s Dharma (teaching) is not something that you believe.
The Dharma is something that you do.
The same is true of the Gospel: our faith is not real until it becomes the way we actually live our lives.