Properly understood, faith means freedom. By definition, there can be no prescribed content to freedom. Freedom is the sine qua non of love, and therefore of faith, and therefore of life in the free God. There are two aspects to Christian freedom. The first is a freedom from: freedom from any false god, whether that be the emperor, a statue, a secular cause célèbre raised to the status of a religion, Baal the storm god, or some other out of the mythic past. The second relies not on cultural constructs like those, but on the steadfastness of the God who set his bow in the sky where all could see it; the one who made his everlasting covenant with Israel, then the new Israel.
In his freedom, God might demand anything of us, issue any command or give any vocation to an individual. We may not recognize it as such. In the free God’s hands we therefore become protean beings facing an indeterminate future, free from the obsessions and allegiances of this world, and freedom to carry out our godly vocations courageously, even to the point of laying down life, knowing we have another that cannot be lost.
Faith is not the embrace of any ideology, institutional loyalty, or system of thought. It is the most radical release from all such bondage, whatever Pharaoh is on the scene. Faith is neither an emotion, a body of knowledge, nor a leap into the dark. It is a gift of God based on his faith toward us.
In 1974, Nodlaig McCarthy of Irish Television, interviewed Mother Teresa about her vocation. Ms. McCarthy asked, “What do you say to people who come to you, who say that they have no faith?”
Mother Teresa answered:
I don’t believe that there is any human being that doesn’t believe in God, . . . . But deep down in their heart it must be that faith that there is God, only maybe it’s under cover and they are, as you say, in darkness and they can’t see.