One of the most famous philosophers of the last 50 years is Jean-Paul Sartre. He is most noted for his claim that human beings are entirely free and have no fixed identity. We become who we are by the choices that we make throughout our lives. This seem to be an attractive notion, though psychologists would argue that, because of other aspects of the human condition, we are not as free as Sartre would suggest. The idea that we are as persons, pure freedom, is attractive because it is nice for us to think that we might be more free than we can ever imagine. Yet Sartre also adds a word of warning to his view that we are entirely free. The result of that freedom is that we are personally responsible for the choices that we make and are therefore responsible for the kind of person that we become. We have no one else to blame.
Whether or not Sartre is right about the level of human freedom that he imagines, the fact is that our choices about life do make us to be the person that we become. And he is surely right that we have to take personal responsibility for the choices that we make. The choices that we make in terms of our relationships with one another and the choices we make in terms of our lifestyle and values, clearly have a huge role in terms of the kind of person that we become.
It is important, too, to recognise, the significance of choice in terms of how our Christian faith is lived and unfolds. It is very easy for us to choose a kind of faith that is simply built around attendance at Mass on Sunday, but that makes no real difference to the way that we live the rest of our life, either in terms of our relationships with other people and in the kind of values that shape us.
Our faith is not simply something that is given to us through our baptism and through the reception of the Sacraments. It is not something static and unchanging. To believe in God, and in the salvation offered us by Jesus, is to accept the invitation to choose for God each and every day and under all the changing circumstances that affect our personal lives. Our faith can only be said to be truly alive when our relationship with Jesus is treated each day as deeply personal, affecting all our values and our relationships and decisions.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel that He has chosen us to be His friends. His love for us is unconditional and unchanging. The certainty of this love is what encourages us begin each day by choosing to live out our faith with the desire for an ever closer union with the God who loves us. Our life of faith will certainly be transformed if we live each day in a choice for Christ.
Fr Gerard, CSsR