Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

“He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.” (Acts 15:9)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“Faith in God purifies the heart, the pure heart sees God. But faith is sometimes defined as followed by people who wish to deceive themselves; as if it were enough merely to believe — some people, you see, promise themselves the vision of God and the kingdom of heaven for believing while living bad lives. Against these the apostle James indignantly took umbrage out of spiritual charity, so he says in his letter, “You believe that God is one.” You pat yourself on your back for your faith; you observe that many godless people assume there are many gods, and you congratulate yourself for believing that there is only one God. “You do well. The demons also believe — and shudder.” Shall they too see God? Those who are pure of heart shall see him. Whoever would say that the unclean spirits are pure of heart? And yet, “they believe—and shudder.”

So our faith must be distinguished from the faith of demons. Our faith, you see, purifies the heart, their faith makes them guilty. So let us distinguish our faith and see that believing is not enough. That is not the sort of faith that purifies the heart. “Purifying their hearts,” it says, “by faith.” But which faith, what sort of faith? The one, surely, which the apostle Paul defines when he says “faith that works through love.” This faith is different from the faith of demons, different from the morals of dissolute and desperate people. “Faith,” he says. “Which faith?” The one “that works through love,” hopes for what God promises. You could not have a more perfect, a more carefully thought-out definition than that.” (Sermon 53)

O God, by Whose grace,
though sinners, we are made just
and, though pitiable, made blessed,
stand, we pray, by Your works,
stand by Your gifts,
that those justified by faith
may not lack the courage of perseverance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen