We, who are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the
Gentiles, (yet) who know that a person is not justified by
works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we
have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith
in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the
law no one will be justified. But if, in seeking to be justified
in Christ, we ourselves are found to be sinners, is Christ then
a minister of sin? Of course not! But if I am building up again
those things that I tore down, then I show myself to be a
transgressor. For through the law I died to the law, 19 that I
might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live,
no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the
flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given
himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if
justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.
It has been said many times that Catholics reject this sort of thing, that we claim to be justified by law and work rather than by grace through faith. The fact that we hear these words on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time would prove that to be false. The Catholic Church does not claim salvation through works, as if our feeble human efforts could come close to meriting Heaven, but rather gives good works the position that they deserve as a sign of faith and a necessary result of the love of God. Jesus tells us that if we love him we'll keep his commandments, while St. James said that faith without works is dead. Works may not be the ticket that we use to enter Heaven, but we cannot sit back and live like pagans with the expectation that we'll have such a ticket when we pass from this life.