The Last Temptation of Faith

“Pentecost 21 Saturday

Luke 17:15

Yet one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice.”

This return must have happened after he had shown himself to the priests along with the others. And the evangelist does not mention how they came to the priests and what happened there. Yet by means of the one returnee and his gratitude he indicates how it went there. Without a doubt, the one man returned by himself reluctantly. For considering that he thanks Christ wholeheartedly and kindly, we cannot help but think that he must have exhorted, admonished, and urged the others, trying his utmost to get them to go with him and acknowledge such great benefit. It also must have hurt him that he was unable to move them; he left them in tears and chagrined. The love he had for Christ constrains us to think all this and the like: It does not leave anything untried; it fears no one; it does not show any favors; it only desires to honor and praise Christ worthily. Now, what might have happened that separated the nine so powerfully from the one? Especially since we heard that they all had experienced such nice beginning and increase in faith in Christ. They did not fall away so far on their own; someone must have overthrown their faith first, so that they not retract and rob Christ of the honor that they so far had so freely and sincerely given to him, changing friendship into enmity. Moreover, it cannot have been a simple lapse as that would not have militated and resisted so strongly against this one with all his admonishing and imploring. The priests must have done it. They could not stand that Christ would get the honor. This is why they gave a strong sermon against him to eradicate such faith. What might they have said? Since they fought against Christ and faith, it is quite easy to figure out what they said and did, namely, the opposite of faith: They repeated time and again that they should not believe that Christ had cleansed them, but should thank God who had regarded their sacrifice and the priests’ prayer, had heard them, and therefore cleansed them…Yet this one did not want to be turned away from Christ; he remained constant and overcame all assaults on his faith…A wild squabble must have arisen against this one. He was to stand by himself against the priests, and his associates fall away from him to their opponents. They implored and threatened him diligently lest he anger God: He should believe the priests, respect the law of Moses, and beware lest he be killed as a blasphemer. The poor child had to be a fool or mad on account of all the goodness they showed him; or he had to be a heretic or apostate. He obtained a cleansing but had to risk body and life, possessions and honor, friends and associates in the process. What’s more, he must let them be known as those who are pious, do well, and honor God, while he must be known as a sinner who dishonors God…See, this is the last and greatest temptation
of faith. If you remain here, you will remain forever. For here you overcome the fear of death and hell with all their terror, in this world and in the world to come.

St. Louis ed., 11:1596-1598.

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