Sunday, 4 May 2014

The Abiding Presence Of The Holy Ghost in the Soul, by Bede Jarrett, O.P. part 13. Adopted Sonship


1. Here again we have to realize that the sonship of God is no mere metaphor, no mere name, but a deep and true fact of huge significance: “Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called and should be the sons of God!” (1 John 3). We become the sons of God. St. Paul very gladly quotes the saying of a Greek poet that men are the offspring of God, making use of a particular word which necessarily implies that both the begetter and the begotten are of the same nature. A sonship indeed is what Our Lord is Himself incessantly teaching the Apostles to regard as their high privilege, for God is not only His Father, but theirs: “Thus shalt thou pray, Our Father.” With the Gospels it is in constant use as the view of God that Christianity came especially to teach. The Epistles are equally insistent on the same view, for St. Paul is perpetually calling to mind the wonderful prerogatives whereby we cry, “Abba: Father.” We are spoken of as co-heirs of Christ, as children of God. St. John, St. Peter, and St. James repeat the same message as the evident result of the Incarnation, for by it we learn that God became the Son of Man, and man the son of God.

2. Yet it must also be admitted that this sonship of God, which is the common property of all just souls, and is the result of the indwelling of God in the soul, does not mean that we are so by nature, but only by adoption. Now adoption, as it is practiced by law, implies that the child to be adopted is not already the son, that the new relationship is entered upon entirely at the free choice of the person adopting, that the child becomes the legal heir to the inheritance of the adopting father. It is perfectly evident that all these conditions are fulfilled in the case of God’s adoption, for we were certainly no children of His before His adoption of us as sons; strangers we were, estranged indeed by the absence of grace and the high gifts of God. Naturally we were made by Him, but had put ourselves far from Him: “You were as sheep going astray.” Then this adoption of us by God was indeed and could only have been at His free choice, through no merits of ours, but solely according to the deliberate action of His own will, for “you have not chosen Me but I have chosen you.” “So that it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Finally, the inheritance is indeed ours by right and title of legal inheritance. We are co-heirs with Christ, and our human nature is lifted up to the level of God; not, of course, that we supplant Him who is by nature the true Son of God, but that we are taken into partnership with Him, and share in Him the wonderful riches of God.

3. Here, then, I may learn the worth and dignity of the Christian name. I am a true son of God, and what else matters upon earth? I have indeed to go about my life with its vocation and all that is entailed in it. I have to work for my living, it may be, or take my place in the family, or lead my own solitary existence. I have to strive to be efficient and effective in the material things of life that fall to my share to be done. But it is this sonship of God that alone makes any matter in the world. In our own time we have heard a very great deal about culture and the ultimate value of the world; but we have seen also to what evil ends so fine a truth may lead men. True culture is not a question of scientific attainments, or mechanical progress, or the discovery of new inventions of destruction, or even of medical and useful sciences; but it is the perfect and complete development of the latent powers of the soul. True culture may indeed make use of sciences and art; perhaps in its most complete sense science and art are needed for the most finished culture of which man is capable; but it is in its very essence the deepening of his truest desire, the full stretch of his widest flights of fancy, the achievement of his noblest ideals. What nobler ideal, or fancy, or desire, can a man have than to be called and to be the son of God; to know that he has been drawn into the close union of God; to feel within his very essence the presence of God; to have personal experience as the objects of his knowledge and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit?