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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
First Reading: 1 Kgs 19:4-8
Second Reading: Eph 4: 30 - 5:2
Gospel Reading: Jn 6: 41-51
In this Sunday’s Collect, we ask “God, whom, taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call our Father” to perfect in us “the spirit of adoption” as his “sons and daughters,” so that we may inherit what he has promised.
The Church also says dare in her introduction to the Our Father at Mass.
What is “daring” about calling God “Father”?
In his book Hail, Holy Queen, Scott Hahn notes that at our baptism, “we were bound by the covenant of Christ’s Blood into the family of God. We were raised, at that moment, to share in the eternal life of the Trinity.”
What would we be otherwise?
We are so used to being called God’s children that we can overlook these questions. Let us consider them.
God has only one begotten Son. That Son is God by nature because he is “begotten, not made.” The rest of us are made, not begotten. God made us in his image, but without his nature, just as a human artist makes a portrait or statue in the image of a man, but without giving it human nature.
In the Old Testament, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “God is called ‘Father’ inasmuch as he is Creator of the world,” but, “even more, because of the covenant and the gift of the Law to Israel, ‘his first-born son.’” However, Hahn says, the Israelites understood this metaphorically. Scripture scholar Joachim Jeremias notes that they never addressed God as “Father.”
In contrast, Jesus always addressed God as “Father” (except in his prayer from the cross). Thus he provoked the chief accusation against him: “We have our law, and according to that law he must die, because he made himself God’s Son.”
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God,” St. John marvels. he seems “astonished” at the fact, Hahn observes, even years after the shock of hearing Jesus say it on Easter Sunday: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
In baptism, God adopts us as his children. However, our adoption is not just a legal fiction: we are actually “reborn as sons of God,” the Catechism says. Jesus described it as being “begotten from above” of “water and Spirit.”
“Flesh begets flesh,” he said; “Spirit begets spirit. Do not be surprised that I tell you must all be begotten from above.”
Before baptism, we are God’s artifacts: things he has made. After baptism, we are fully his children, alive not just with natural human life, but also with the supernatural, divine life of the Holy Trinity, which does not die.
I like to mention, after baptizing an infant, that the baby now has as much right in heaven as Jesus Christ himself. The first time I said it, impulsively, I scared myself. However, it is true, for, as St. Paul said, “if we are children, we are heirs as well: heirs of God, heirs with Christ.”
“This gift exceeds all [other] gifts,” said Pope St. Leo the Great: “that God should call man ‘son,’ and man should name God ‘Father.’”
After baptism, our supernatural life needs nourishment, just like the natural life of Elijah in the First Reading. Nourishment is what the Eucharist provides.
“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said (in Greek, Zoë, distinct from natural life, Bios.) “This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Indeed, as St. Paul says, the Holy Spirit of God has marked us “with a seal for the day of redemption.” Until then, we must be “imitators of God, as beloved children.”
Father Hawkswell's course, “The Catholic Faith in Plain English,” has now ended, but all the materials (video and print) will remain available online free of charge at beholdvancouver.org/catholic-faith-course until the end of August.
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