I had something planned for this post over the week, but unfortunately forgot what it was over the weekend. A poor sign on my part- I shouldn’t let the things of the world interfere with my spiritual life. So in order to jump start this post I opened my Bible at random, and this passage was there:
43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation.”
What the faithful need to remember is that it is not enough that we empty our lives of evil thoughts and evil deeds. While that is a good start, it is just that- a start. It provides us an opening we must take advantage of. For as our Lord and Savior explains, when we empty out the evil of our life, we create a void. If we do not fill that void with what it good, then most assuredly the devil and his agents will seek to re-fill it with what is evil. Complacency cannot be part of our faith. If we are not moving forward on the path, then we are of necessity walking away from it.
This brings to mind some of what St. James said about faith and works:
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
18 But some one will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish fellow, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.
(James 2: 14-26)
If we become complacent in our faith, and do not demonstrate good works, then our faith will end up dying. In a way it can be compared to leaving the emptiness unfilled after clearing out an evil spirit. Our faith can remove that evil, but only good works can fill that void with actual good. There is no neutral ground here- we either produce good works, or we don’t:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Here are some words of St. John Chrysostom on this particular passage:
Then He adds, and says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.“What wills He to imply by the comparison? That the man who gives no heed to His words can have no life, and that the miracles about to take place, would be wrought by the power of Christ. “My Father is the Husbandman.“How then? Does the Son need a power working within?Away with the thought! This example does not signify this. Observe with what exactness He goes through the comparison. He says not that therootenjoys the care of the Husbandman, but,the branches.And the foot is brought in in this place for no other purpose, but that they may learn that they can work nothing without His power, and that they ought to be united with Him by faith as the branch with the vine.Every branch in Me that bears not fruit the Father takes away.
Here He alludes to the manner of life, showing that without works it is not possible to be in Him.
And every branch that bears fruit, He purges it.
That is,causes it to enjoy great care.Yet the root requires care rather than the branches, in being dug about, and cleared, yet about this He says nothing here, but all about the branches. Showing that He is sufficient to Himself, and that the disciples need much help from the Husbandman, although they be very excellent. Wherefore He says,that which bears fruit, He purges it.The one branch, because it is fruitless, cannot even remain in the Vine, but for the other, because it bears fruit, He renders it more fruitful. This, some one might assert, was said with relation also to the persecutions then coming upon them. For thepurges it,isprunes,which makes the branch bear better. Whence it is shown, that persecutions rather make men stronger.