TRANSACTIONAL FAITH

Friday, 12th Week in Ordinary Time               

            Salieri, a contemporary of Mozart, used to pray: “Signore, let me be a composer. I will honor you with much music all the days of my life.” “I will be your servant for life. All I ask in return is to be granted sufficient fame to enjoy my work.”

            Many years later, when despite his fame, Salieri finds himself eclipsed by the younger Mozart, he declares war with God, speaking to him in words dripping with sarcasm: “Grazie, grazie, Signore. You know how hard I’ve worked.” “And all I asked for in return was for me to hear your voice in my work.” “And you have indeed made me hear it, yet it speaks only one name: Mozart.” “Grazie, Signore. From now on we are enemies.”

            David Hume, a British philosopher, has so much criticism on religion. And one thing he finds very wrong about religion is what he calls “transactional faith” or “transactional religiosity.” It is the kind of faith that sees God as someone we ‘transact’ with or strike deals and bargains with. “Let me serve you, O Lord” – that is how our prayer usually begins. But it continues: “All I ask for in return is this…” We try to ‘transact’ or bargain with God. That is not prayer of faith. Hume calls it: It is pious fraud.”

            It is the exact opposite of the faith displayed by the leper in today’s gospel reading. Here is a man whom the gospel describes as “full of leprosy,” who throws himself before Jesus and pleads with him, in total confidence and trust. And yet there is no trace of presumption in his words. Instead, he leaves entirely to Jesus the decision whether to grant his request or not: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” This is no transactional faith, but one of complete trust and absolute surrender to whatever Jesus chooses.

            May we be inspired by the humble attitude of the leper. May we learn to approach the Lord, especially in prayer, not with a demanding a request, but by with a humble heart: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” “Lord, if you wish, you can make me persevere.” “Lord, if you wish, you can make me faithful to you.” “Lord, if you wish, you can make me a better person.”

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