The Nature and Cost of Faith

Only very late do we learn the price of the risk of believing, because only very late do we face up to the idea of death. This is what is difficult: believing truly means dying. Dying to everything: to our reasoning, to our plans, to our past, to our childhood dreams, to our attachment to earth, and sometimes even to the sunlight, as at the moment of our physical death. That is why faith is so difficult. It is so difficult to hear from Jesus a cry of anguish for us and our difficulties in believing, “Oh, if only you could believe!” Because not even he can take our place in the leap of Faith; it is up to us. It is like dying! It is up to us, and no one is able to take our place. This mature act of faith is terribly, uniquely personal. Its risk involves us down to the core; the truest and greatest prototype of this act of faith that we, as the People of God, possess is the biblical account of the trial of Abraham. “God said, ‘Take your son Isaac, your only one whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you”‘ (Gen. 22:2). That is a leap of pure faith proposed to Abraham! It is a personal act, and it is an act of death. Without love it is impossible to understand such a proposal; on the contrary, it is scandalous. But for anyone who loves? Seeing God wrapt round the colossal figure of this patriarch, alone in the desert beside his tent…no, that is no scandal, but quite the contrary. God wants to communicate with the depths of Abraham’s being and tear him from himself and his involvement with his own problems, which are like self-centered possessions; he wants to make this creature of his “more his,” this man who is destined not for the tents of earth, but for those of Heaven. So God asks of him an absurd trial, as love is absurd for anyone who does not live it, but as true and relentless as love for anyone who possesses it. “‘Take your son. . .”‘.

An act of pure faith is the death of what we love most so it may be offered to the loved one because only love is stronger than death…At the ultimate moment of trial, when we try to pierce the invisible, with the sharpened spear of every possibility we can find, we realize that the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity are really only one, and they have such a power of penetration that they could disrupt the entire universe. On Mount Moriah, in the trial of Abraham, humankind embraced God as never before. The experience of this embrace reverberates through the religious history of the world as an epic of a love greater than our endless frailty.

—Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes