The Vatican

"It is decisive to rediscover the beauty of being children of God."

The Pope reflected on the condition of divine filiation that we acquire in Baptism, through which we come to "participate in an effective and real way in the mystery of Jesus".

David Fernández Alonso-September 8, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes
pope's audience

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On Wednesday, Pope Francis took up again the "itinerary of deepening the faith in the light of the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians. The apostle insists that these Christians should not forget the newness of the revelation of God that has been announced to them. In full agreement with the Evangelist John (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2), Paul stresses that faith in Jesus Christ has enabled us to become truly children of God and his heirs. We Christians often take this reality of being children of God for granted. However, it is always good to remember with gratitude the moment when we became so, the moment of our baptism, in order to live more consciously the great gift we have received.

Speaking of divine sonship, Francis says that "in fact, once 'faith has come' in Jesus Christ (v. 25), the radically new condition that leads to divine sonship is created. The sonship of which Paul speaks is no longer the general one that affects all men and women as sons and daughters of the one Creator. In the passage we have just heard, he affirms that faith makes it possible to become children of God "in Christ" (v. 26). It is this "in Christ" that makes the difference. By his incarnation he has become our brother, and by his death and resurrection he has reconciled us to the Father. Whoever welcomes Christ in faith, through baptism is "clothed" by Him and by filial dignity (cf. v. 27)".

"In his Letters, St. Paul refers on more than one occasion to baptism. For him, to be baptized is to participate in an effective and real way in the mystery of Jesus. In the Letter to the Romans he goes so far as to say that, in baptism, we have died with Christ and have been buried with him in order to live with him (cf. 6:3-14). Baptism, therefore, is not a mere external rite. Those who receive it are transformed in their depths, in their innermost being, and possess a new life, precisely that which enables them to turn to God and invoke him with the name "Abba, Father" (cf. Gal 4:6).

"The Apostle," the Holy Father affirms, "affirms with great boldness that the identity received through baptism is an identity so new that it prevails over the differences that exist on the ethnic-religious level: 'there is neither Jew nor Greek'; and also on the social level: 'neither slave nor free; neither male nor female' (Gal 3:28). These expressions are often read too hastily, without recognizing their revolutionary value. For Paul, writing to the Galatians that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek" was tantamount to an authentic subversion in the ethno-religious sphere. The Jew, because he belonged to the chosen people, was privileged with respect to the pagan (cf. Rom 2:17-20), and Paul himself affirms this (cf. Rom 9:4-5). It is not surprising, therefore, that this new teaching of the apostle could sound heretical. The second equality, between "free" and "slaves," also opens up surprising perspectives. For ancient society the distinction between slaves and free citizens was vital. The latter enjoyed by law all rights, while slaves were not even recognized as having human dignity. Thus, finally, equality in Christ overcomes the social difference between the two sexes, establishing an equality between men and women which was revolutionary at the time and which needs to be reaffirmed even today".

"As can be seen, Paul affirms the profound unity that exists among all the baptized, regardless of their condition, because each of them, in Christ, is a new creature. Every distinction becomes secondary with respect to the dignity of being children of God, who by his love brings about a true and substantial equality."

"We are therefore called," Francis concludes, "in a more positive way to live a new life that finds in filiation with God its fundamental expression. It is decisive also for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, brothers and sisters among ourselves because we are inserted in Christ. Differences and contrasts that create separation should have no place among believers in Christ. Our vocation is rather to make concrete and evident the call to the unity of the whole human race (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Const. Lumen Gentium, 1). Whatever aggravates the differences between people, often causing discrimination, all this, before God, no longer has any consistency, thanks to the salvation accomplished in Christ. What counts is the faith that works along the path of unity indicated by the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to walk resolutely along this path.

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