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 wish 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 made 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
Paschasius Radbertus (c.785-860) was brought up by the nuns of Notre Dame at Soissons, after being left abandoned on their doorstep. He received the monastic habit at Corbie, and was the confidant of two successive abbots. On the death of Abbot Wala Paschasius himself became abbot, but he found the office uncongenial and resigned after seven years. He always refused to be raised to the priesthood. Paschasius, who was a prolific writer, is noted especially for the part he played in establishing the Catholic doctrine on the eucharist. He also wrote lengthy commentaries on Matthew and on the forty-fourth psalm.