How Does God Strengthen Our Faith?

Pentecost 21 Friday

Luke 17:14

“When Christ saw them, he said to them: Go and show yourselves to the priests. And as they went, they became clean.”

So far we have learned how faith works, what its nature is, where it comes from, what its beginning is, what it brings, and how it is pleasing to God. Yet all this is said about the beginning of a Christian existence. Now, it is not enough to begin, but what matter is to increase and remain constant. For Christ says in Matthew 24:13: “He who endures to the end will be saved.”…This is why this verse also teaches us about the increase and perfection of faith. Faith or the heart’s confidence is quite tender and cannot endure much. It is easily injured and begins to wiggle and waver unless it is well-trained and habitual. Yet even so, it suffers has many offenses and danger from the sins, from nature, from reason and conceit, from human teachings, from examples of the saints, from devils–in short, it is tempted on all sides to despair or to rely on its own works…This is why we must not be secure, but stand in the fear of God and pray with Jeremiah, 17:17, that God would guard our faith and not allow us to come to the point of despairing of him and being afraid of him…Accordingly, we see here that Christ, when the lepers had begun to believe and to expect good things from Christ, drives their faith forward and tests it: He does not heal them at once, but tells them they are to show themselves to the priests. If there had not been any faith in them, reason and natural pride would soon have said and complained: “What is he talking about? We have looked to him for good things and believed wholeheartedly that he would help us–but now he does not touch us as is his custom and as he has done to others, but only looks at us and passes us by. Maybe he even despises us. Moreover, he does not say affirmatively whether he wants to cleanse us, but leaves us in doubt and tells us only to show ourselves to the priests. Why should we show ourselves to them? They already know that we have leprosy.” See, this is how nature would react angrily to him because he does not do at once what it desires and does not promise for certain what he would do. Yet here is faith; faith strengthens itself and only increases in such tempting. It does not consider how ungracious or uncertain Christ demeanor or words may be. Rather, it clings to Christ’s goodness and is not deterred. And indeed, there was a great, rich faith was in the lepers that they freely went ahead based on these words; for if they had doubted, they certainly would not have gone, since there is no clear promise here. And this is, then, the way in which God strengthens and tests our faith: He deals with us in a way that we do not know what he wants to do with us. He only does this so that man should entrust himself to God and surrender to his bare goodness, not doubting that God will give what we desire or something better.

St. Louis ed., 11:1590-1592.

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