Faith and Memory

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Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop


Luke 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” 


Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, enlighten my memory so that I can recall all the wonderful things which you have worked throughout my life.


Encountering Christ:


  1. The Nature of a Miracle: Imagine transforming today’s Gospel into a screenplay. How does the moment of healing happen? As a flashing moment of cleansing energy? Or a smooth, breezy touch, blowing away the infection like a layer of dust? Writers and filmmakers can portray the effects of miracles on screen, but how they happen always remains a mystery. Even if we are blessed with the faith to affirm God’s action in a miraculous situation in our own lives, we will still be quite incapable of describing in human terms how he accomplishes his works. “Just as you do not know how the life breath enters the human frame in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who is working in everything” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).
  2. Nine Out of Ten: Nine out of ten did not return to thank Jesus. Do we not ourselves engage God quite insistently and confidently when in need of a miracle? When we notice that what we asked for was actually granted, we react exultantly. But, after a while, looking back, we sometimes struggle to recall why we thought it was “God’s work.” In retrospect, it suddenly seems quite possible to explain the “miracle” naturally. We doubt our recollection. We rationalize that “it didn’t happen that way.” It’s possible that this experience, still common today, leads nine out of ten to not return to Jesus and thank him.
  3. Pocketing a Moment of Grace?: Like the screenwriter, we can try to capture mystery and attempt to pocket grace. We can write down our insights, record answered prayers, and commit to memory the little miracles we experience daily. As noble as that is, and as mature and wise as it is to do the kinds of spiritual practices that keep us on track, we will never change the ethereal and somewhat volatile character of mystery. On the contrary, each day will be a new occasion to embrace the mysterious, intangible qualities of Jesus and renew and refresh our fundamental decision to believe in and love him. 


Conversing with Christ: My Lord Jesus, I believe in you. There are thousands of “proofs” in my pocket: “proofs” for your presence, for your love, for your words to me. And yet, no number of such “proofs” will ever be enough; none of them will take away the need to renew my faith now by living it here. Lord, help me to treasure your graces and to remember our story gratefully; let that treasury be my personal “depositum fidei,” the sum of things I believe because you have presented them to me. For I know that it is not memory which enables my faith, but rather it is the faith you grant me today which enables that memory.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray fervently for a renewal of my faith.


For Further Reflection: “There is a voice in the depths of mankind that prays which is stronger than any argument to the contrary. […] A voice that flows forth spontaneously without anyone commanding it; a voice that questions the meaning of our journey here below, above all when we find ourselves in darkness” (Pope Francis, General Audience on May 6, 2020: Complete address). 


Written by Fr. Gabriel von Wendt, LC.

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