“Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”
This is such great news for all, regardless of whether we are Catholic or otherwise. In these words, we confess that all of us are children of God and we have the same Father. This is what the Lord said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mt 5:44f
But this reality is not known to all; especially for those without faith. This is because they do not know that God is their Father. Cut off from God, they live a life without origin, identity and destiny. They do not know who they are. Without knowing their identity and origin, how can anyone live a purposeful and meaningful life? For them, life on earth is just doing without being; surviving and waiting for the day to depart from this world forever. They reduce themselves to living a life of an animal; working, eating, enjoying and sleeping. There is no meaning to life beyond this.
For this reason Jesus came to reveal to us our identity by showing us the Father. “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.” (Jn 17:6) “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:10f)
However, this presupposes that we believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. This is because “no one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (Jn 1:18) In another text, Jesus said, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Mt 11:27) Necessarily, to know the Father, we must come to believe in Jesus. “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (Jn 17:3)
Jesus not only reveals to us the identity of the Father, He shows us the Way to the Father. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.” (Jn 14:6f) By His life, passion, death and resurrection, Jesus points the way to the love of the Father.
If we claim to be God’s children, we must become who we are. So while in principle we are God’s children, we have not fully arrived at who we are. Christian life is a process and a journey of reclaiming our sonship and daughtership in Christ. St John reiterates this when he wrote, “we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.” Becoming Christ, so that we will be truly God’s adopted children not just in name but in fact, is a lifelong process. How can we become more like Christ and share in His sonship? Not by our power but by His Might.
Firstly, we must recognize our lack of capacity to do the right thing. Just because we know the law and what is right, does not mean that we can do it or follow the law always. We are in many ways powerless when temptations come. So we are sinners and will always remain sinners. But so long as we are striving to overcome our imperfections, God will forgive us our sins. God wants to assure us that in Christ, He has already forgiven us, so long as we are repentant of our weaknesses, even though we might fall again and again. He is “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus who is that unblemished lamb, was offered as a sacrifice for the atonement of our sins. In Christ, His death on the cross cancelled all our sins when He showed us the mercy of God. Indeed, St John said, “Now you know that he appeared in order to abolish sin, and that in him there is no sin.”
As we come to know Jesus more and more, we will sin less and less. His love and mercy for us will give us the capacity to do everything that the law requires, not out of fear but out of love and understanding of the truth. Truly, “anyone who sins has never seen him or known him.” Knowing Jesus is what helps us to walk more closely with Him. Jesus is “the true light that enlightens every man.” (Jn 1:9) “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:6f)
But Christian life is not just a matter of exercising the will and making efforts to follow the way of Christ. We are given that capacity to live the life of Christ. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (1 Jn 1:12) How is one born of God if not through the Holy Spirit? Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Jn 3:5f) Only the Holy Spirit can give us the capacity to live the life of Christ. For this reason, John the Baptist made it clear that purification by baptism of water, which he was administering to the people, was only a symbolic expression of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. But he said, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptize with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is the One who can bestow upon us the gift of sonship and daughtership in the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, as Christians we can truly rejoice in our salvation. With the psalmist, we too sing, “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy. Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp with the sound of music. With trumpets and the sound of the horn acclaim the King, the Lord.” In Christ, we are saved because He enlightens us in the truth, shows us the way and empowers us to walk the way of the Spirit. Following Jesus, we will come to the fullness of truth and love, and at the end of our journey come to meet the Father face to face. We shall be like Jesus because we shall see Him as He really is.
In the meantime, let us also invite others to come to know the Lord. We are called to witness to Jesus as John the Baptist did when he said in no uncertain terms, “Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.” We too have seen the Lord and so we are called to invite others to reclaim their dignity as God’s children. John the Baptist recognized that he was only a precursor to the coming of Christ. “A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. It was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptizing with water.” We must be humble in recognizing who we are and our calling in life. We must not pretend to be what we are not. Like John the Baptist, we must recognize our sinfulness and our limitations. Nevertheless, having found new meaning in Christ, we are called to point others to Jesus by living out our sonship and daughtership.