May 31, 2015
Rom 8: 14-17
Matt 28: 16-20
St. Ursula, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.
Someone was quoted anonymously in America magazine as saying: “I think a good life is one where you find out who you really are.” Today’s liturgy enables believers to discover who we really are: “Those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God” (Rom 8: 14).
Holy Name of Jesus Church
In Jesus’ name God adopts us into his family as his children and his heirs “with Christ” (Rom 8:17), to inherit—as a gift God freely gives us (“not by human choice”)—the same glory, the same eternal happiness, that Jesus enjoys in his human nature after his resurrection and ascension—the human nature that Jesus shares with us thru his conception of the Virgin Mary, the human nature that he has used as the means of sharing the glory of his divine nature with us.
According to St. Matthew’s Gospel, just before ascending into heaven Jesus commissions his apostles to go forth and “make disciples of all nations” (28:19). They are to do that by baptizing and teaching (28:19).
Presumably some teaching is to precede the Baptism of adults, and that has always been the Church’s practice. But teaching also is to follow Baptism, which also was the practice of the ancient Church. In today’s Church, in which most people are baptized as infants, that teaching role is taken up, or is supposed to be taken up, 1st of all by parents—Pope Francis recently reminded parents of their responsibility—and then by the extended family and the parish community.
And we must add Confirmation, which is part of our Christian initiation. The reception of the sacraments doesn’t mean that our conversion is complete or our learning is complete. The sacraments of initiation are only the beginning of our journey with Christ toward the “long life on the land which the Lord” our God is giving us forever (cf. Deut 4:40), which isn’t a geographical place like the land of Israel, but “our true native land,” our true homeland, in the Father’s house. In Christ’s name the Church continues to teach us, and she continues to call us to conversion: to reject whatever is sinful in our lives and to adopt more virtuous ways of living. So, dear disciples of the Lord Jesus, your religious instruction must always continue—thru the reading and study of sacred Scripture, other religious reading, participation in the sacred liturgy and in parish life (even in your new parish), study, discussion, and prayer.
Jesus’ command, followed by the Church for 20 centuries, is to “baptize disciples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). To do something in someone’s name is to invoke that someone’s presence, his power, his authority. An ambassador, e.g., speaks and acts in the name of his country; a police officer acts in the name of the city or state; a lawyer speaks in the name of her client. In biblical terms, the name “can be considered as a substitute for the person.” To be baptized “in the name of” the Holy Trinity, then, is to come under the influence and authority of the Trinity, to be put into a relationship with these 3 Persons. From Paul’s writings we know that’s a relationship of family, of being sisters and brothers of Christ in his humanity, of being adopted as God’s children. What a noble gift God has given us!
Hendrik von Balen (1620)
St. James Church, Antwerp
The Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, adopts us as God’s children and gives us the right to call God our Abba, our papa, our daddy, as Jesus did in his prayer (Rom 8:15). This is how much God loves us; this is how familiar he wants us to be with him—familiar, as in “comfortable with, at ease with”; familiar, as in “part of the family, at home with.” The Spirit leads us to become God’s children, and he leads us to respond to God’s gift by praising our Father in Jesus’ name, giving the Father thanks together with Jesus, communing with Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. We invoke the Spirit over our bread and wine that he may transform those earthly elements into the body and blood of Jesus, just as he transforms us in Reconciliation from sinners into grace-filled saints. The Spirit enables us to suffer, even, as Christ suffered; maybe not suffer persecution for our Christian faith, as many of St. Paul’s readers had to and some of our brothers and sisters are suffering in the Middle East; but to suffer all the common afflictions that come with our humanity, including physical pain, illness, grief, etc., and to unite our sufferings with those of Christ—which we can do because the Holy Spirit acts in us. The time is at hand, however, when we may also have to suffer socially and financially for the faith because our increasingly secular society is gradually making it harder for us to practice our faith outside the walls of the church building. “If only we suffer with Christ, we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:17), i.e., take our places with him in the Father’s house as heirs of God’s kingdom, as beloved, faithful sons and daughters. That’s who we really are.