Increase our faith

Daily Reading for October 3 • The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Since the apostles understood that the source of all the gospel virtues was faith, the faith that the Lord so carefully required in the doing of miracles, that he so often praised in many, even non-Jews, that always receives what it asks for, and that they themselves had used in dispelling illness and driving out demons, . . . they said to the Lord, “Lord, since we have nothing good except from you, we ask that you increase our faith.”

But the Lord knew that his apostles were still thickheaded and imperfect, and were asking for an increase in faith just so that they would be better at working miracles. He did indeed affirm the strength and power of faith if it is also pure, but he declared that it had to be joined with the highest degree of humility, and was not to be brought out for empty show, but only when the salvation of one’s neighbor or the glory of God requires. He spoke in a comparison: “If you have faith like a mustard seed, which is tiny and humble, and does not put forth its power unless it is crushed or chewed, you will say to this sycamine tree, which had driven its roots far and wide and seems impossible for any power to tear up, ‘Be uprooted, and be transplanted into the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Now in the mustard seed the Lord meant himself, who, though he showed himself the humblest of all things, still had the secret power of his divine nature hidden within, which at length revealed itself after the seed was crushed on the cross and buried in death. The power of this seed worked in the disciples, and they were not supposed to claim any of it as their own possession, for they were not the originators of what they did but only the instruments. . . . Similarly in your case, do not appropriate for yourselves the glory of your good deeds; just do your work faithfully.

From the commentary on Luke 17 by Erasmus in Collected Works of Erasmus: Paraphrase on Luke 11-24, translated by Jane E. Phillips (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003).

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