Sunday, October 2nd, 2016
A Reflection on Luke 17:3-10, N.A.B.
By: Larry T
Jesus’ instruction to forgive the contrite transgressor as many as “seven times in one day” was raising forgiveness to a new height. So, the apostles’ natural reaction was to ask for an increase in faith so that they could forgive as Jesus had just instructed them.
3 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
4 And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
6 The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to (this) mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
7 “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
8 Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
9 Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
10 So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’” – Luke 17:3-10 N.A.B.
However, their demand for an increase in faith tells us that they didn’t understand that faith is a gift from God – a free will gift – a grace. Then, what is faith, and how can we obtain it? And once we have it, how can it grow? From the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read:
Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” To live, grow, and persevere in the faith, it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. – C.C.C. 162, and:
Faith is a personal adherence of the whole man to God who reveals himself. It involves an assent of the intellect and will to the self-revelation God has made through his deeds and words. - C.C.C. 176
So then, is it true faith when a life-long Catholic rationalizes, my grandparents were Catholic, my parents were Catholic, I was raised Catholic; they were all good people. So I’m going to believe in God and follow in their footsteps? Is the intellectual decision, alone, to believe in God, albeit for a good reason enough? Probably not. Faith is more than an intellectual belief in God. Still yet, it could be a good beginning, but knowing that we should do something doesn’t mean that we will do it. Intellectually, I accept that for health reasons I should walk at least thirty minutes a day, but knowing it doesn’t mean that I will do it. Why not? Because my will dominates my intellect; unless my intellect and will are in agreement I probably won’t regularly walk thirty minutes a day. So, the intellectual decision to believe in God can be a good beginning, but unless the will is in full agreement, faith remains shaky at best. Then, in this matter of faith, at what point does our intellect and will (the whole person) come to believe in God?
We will have true, saving faith when we accept the gift of faith when it is offered to us by God. When that happens will there be angels playing harps, will there be thunder and lightning or will the earth tremble? No, it could be a subtle as the urge to learn more about God. More often than not, we won’t even remember the day - suddenly faith was just there. In our rear view mirrors we might look back and recall a certain period in our lives when we received it.
Then, is faith alone enough to get to heaven? Not if that means simply clinging to an intellectual belief in God, routinely attending Sunday services, and nothing more. If it doesn’t lead us to a holy life of righteousness and mercy, it is not a saving faith. The Letter of James tell us that faith without works is no better than words without deeds, that faith can be neither seen nor verified unless it shows itself in works, and even the demons have an intellectual belief in God, but it does not lead to their salvation.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,
16 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?
17 So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 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.
19 You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.
– James 2:14-19 N.A.B.
– James 2:14-19 N.A.B.
What The Letter of James doesn’t tell us is that works which stem from true faith nurture and increase faith; without works faith is destined to wither and die like an olive tree which is never watered; it will never bear fruit.