The concept of being God’s children [has] a dynamic quality: we are not ready-made children of God from the start, but we are meant to become so increasingly by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus. Our sonship turns out to be identical with following Christ. To name God as Father thus becomes a summons to us: to live as a ‘child’, as a son or daughter. ‘All that is mine is thine,’ Jesus says in his high-priestly prayer to the Father (Jn ), and the father says the same thing to the elder brother of the Prodigal Son (Lk ). The word father is an invitation to live from our awareness of this reality.
Hence, too, the delusion of false emancipation, which marked the beginning of mankind’s history of sin, is overcome. Adam, heeding the words of the serpent, wants to become God himself and to shed his need for God. We see that to be God’s child is not a matter of dependency, but rather of standing in the relation of love that sustains man’s existence and gives it meaning and grandeur.
1, 138-9 Nazareth
Reflection – As we ponder the gift of the Holy Spirit, celebrated yesterday in the feast of Pentecost, we recall that it is by the Spirit that we cry out ‘Abba Father’ to God (cf Gal 4:6). So it is good to reflect on this whole business of being children of God, the ‘divine filiation’ that is at the heart of Christian life. It is what Christ came to offer us: that His own relationship as Son to the Father in the Divine Nature would be extended to us by grace. What He is in Himself, we become by participation in His life, a participation that is effected by the gift of His Spirit.
This whole business of being a child of God is a very deep one. We can be a bit facile about it, if we’re not careful. ‘Oh, we’re all children of the one God, after all!’ we can say a bit breezily perhaps, as if merely saying that waves aside all the difficulties of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and the call to work for the unity of the human family.
It is true, of course. We are all created by God, and loved by Him. That is indisputable. But as Pope Benedict describes in the above passage, there’s a lot more to being a child of God than that passive reception of being and love. It is a dynamic reality, and being a dynamic reality, engages our freedom.
In other words, we all start off being created and beloved of God, his ‘children’ in this minimal (but very real) sense. But the choices each of us makes today either make us more deeply ‘filiated’ to Him or less so. And Jesus—our living communion with Him and following of His Gospel—is the very heart and soul of these choices. He shows us what it means to be a Son of God, to be the one Son of God, in fact, the only-begotten One.
And so our dynamic growth into deeper and deeper ‘sonship’ is typified by our deeper and deeper conformity to Christ. Deeper and deeper obedience; deeper and deeper abandonment to the Father; deeper and deeper trust in His goodness and love.
‘All that I have is yours.’ The pairing of this saying of Jesus’ in both the priestly prayer in John’s Gospel, Jesus’ last words before entering his passion, and the parable of the Prodigal Son, where it stands as the Father’s invitation to each one of to enter into his merciful love, is no accident.
Jesus in the parable shows us what we are made for, to receive the merciful love of God and to extend that merciful love to everyone. Jesus in his Passion and death shows us what that path of merciful love looks like, what it demands of us, the depths into which it calls us.