Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Paschasius Radbertus
He sent the leper away, and he was cured. (Mk 1:43)
However great our sinfulness, each one of us can be healed by God every day. We have only to worship him with humility and love, and wherever we are to say with faith: “Lord, if you want to you can make me clean. It is by believing from the heart that we are justfied,” so we must make our petitions with the utmost confidence, and without the slightest doubt of God’s power.
If we pray with a faith springing from love, God’s will need be in no doubt. He will be ready and able to save us by an all-powerful command. He immediately answered the leper’s request, saying: “I do want to.” Indeed, no sooner had the leper begun to pray with faith than the Savior’s hand began to cure him of his leprosy.
This leper is an excellent teacher of the right way to make petitions. He did not doubt the Lord’s willingness through disbelief in his compassion, but neither did he take it for granted, for he knew the depths of his own sinfulness. Yet because he acknowledged that the Lord was able to cleanse him if he wished, we praise this declaration of firm faith just as we praise the Lord’s mighty power.
For obtaining a favor from God rightly depends as much on having a real living faith as on the exercise of the Creator’s power and mercy. If faith is weak it must be strengthened, for only then will it succeed in obtaining health of body or soul.
The Apostle’s words, “purifying their hearts by faith” referred, surely, to strong faith like this. And so, if the hearts of believers are purified by faith, we must give thought to this virtue of faith, for, as the Apostle says, “Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea.”
A faith shown to be living by its love, steadfast by its perseverance, patient by its endurance of delay, humble by its confession, strong by its confidence, reverent by its way of presenting petitions, and discerning with regard to their content—such a faith may be certain that in every place it will hear the Lord saying: “I do want to.”
Pondering this wonderful reply, let us put the words together in their proper sequence. The leper began: “Lord, if you want to,” and the Savior said: “I do want to.” The leper continued: “You can make me clean,” and the Lord spoke his powerful word of command: “Be clean.”
All that the sinner’s true confession maintained with faith, love and power immediately conferred. And in case the gravity of his sins should make anyone despair, another Evangelist says this man who was cured had been completely covered with leprosy.
“For all have sinned and forfeited the glory of God.” Since, as we rightly believe, God’s power is operative everywhere, we ought to believe the same of his will, “for his will is that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Commentary on Matthew’s Gospel V, 8: PL 120, 341-42
Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-50), who was born at Imola in Italy, became bishop of Ravenna. He was highly esteemed by the Empress Galla Placidia, in whose presence he preached his first sermon as bishop. He was above all a pastor, and many of his sermons have been preserved.
**From Saint Louis University