Sacramental Adoption: the Ultimate Inside Job

Many Catholics are generous people. And in so many parishes you can see that family that has one or maybe even two kids who don’t look much like the parents or the other siblings. The thought comes to your mind: “Maybe they’re adopted.”  The sign is precisely a lack of external likeness.

My daughter was baptized together with my nephew, the second child whom my generous sister and her husband adopted. They were born a day apart. At their baptism, Fr. Thomas Berg emphasized a simple teaching about baptism: in the Church, we are all adopted. And paradoxically, the sign of it can and should be how much we do resemble our Father.

After discussing, last week, the event of the Resurrection, and the important role of the women who followed Christ, Pope Francis’ Wednesday audience pondered the saving consequences of the Resurrection, meditating on the initial verses of the First Letter of Peter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” The Resurrection gives us a new birth (spiritual adoption) and the heavenly inheritance that goes with it.

So, who’s your Daddy? Pope Francis’ll tell ya:

“It is the Holy Spirit whom we received in baptism that teaches us, impels us to say to God ‘Father,’ or better  ‘Abba!’ which means ‘Daddy.’  That’s who God is; He is a Daddy for us. The Holy Spirit makes real in us this new condition as sons of God. And this is the greatest gift that we receive from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.”

Whereas human adoption affects only the externals, legal rights and so forth, sacramental adoption touches the core of who we are. Not only can we call ourselves God’s children (and legally claim our inheritance in heaven) –as if that weren’t amazing enough!– but we truly do become God’s sons and daughters. We don’t share God’s nature like Jesus does as the Second Person of the Trinity, but we do share God’s life through a participation in his very life. This participation in God’s life is what we call grace.

No earthly adoptive parent can do that, as much as he or she loves an adopted child. They can’t work from the inside. God is so powerful that his love works not only around us but in us. And He does it through his Word, through the Sacraments, through our building a relationship with Him in prayer.

My oldest nephew is every inch his father’s son. They have a similar sense of humor, a shared interest in history and business. A gift of love and a bond of love that has blossomed and transformed the son through sharing the life of his father.

The Pope today reminds us all that THIS is the whole point of Christianity. THIS is the basis of our dignity: We are adopted sons and daughters of the Royal Family of the Universe!

“This means that every day we should let Christ transform us and make us like Him. It means to seek to live as Christians, to try to follow Him, even if we see our limitations and weaknesses. The temptation of leaving God aside to put ourselves in the center is always standing by and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being children of God.”

Pope Francis’ words should shake us up in this Year of Faith. Sure, they may be things we know, but are they things we live?  Do we live lives worthy of the gift we have received? Do we live our faith like our lives depend on it?

If our life of faith is only in the externals, we need renewal through the sacraments. The light rinse isn’t going to do it. Easter is the season of spring cleaning.

Our baptism didn’t just cleanse us on the outside. There was never a better inside job! And our mission is to let grace act in and through us, so that our life resembles Christ’s life.

Only if we look enough like Him, will people say “Yeah, he’s adopted!’

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.