instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Insert Pop/Father pun here

Every now and then, a few words or a phrase pops out at me when I'm listening to the readings at Mass. (It would probably happen more often if I listened better.) On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity last week, the phrase was "a spirit of adoption." As in:
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!"
In context, St. Paul is teaching that those united to the Father through Jesus are true children of God -- "and if children, then heirs." Children by adoption, not by nature, yet we are still "joint heirs with Christ," the only begotten Son of God.

All basic catechetical stuff, but in this passage St. Paul goes a little further into how we were adopted. It wasn't by the filing of some Divine paperwork or the issuance of some Divine decree, and it certainly wasn't through our own hard work and wits. No: "you received a Spirit of adoption."

The Holy Spirit is Himself a Spirit of adoption. Adoptivity, if you will, is one of His attributes. He blows where He wills, and what He wills is the adoption of men into the family of God.

If I have received the Spirit of adoption, then I too should have a spirit of adoption. Like Father, like son. I too should will the adoption of men into the family of God.

"To will" here is a very active verb. It doesn't mean "to be okay with" or "to take pleasure in a fortuitous occurrence." It means "to desire, and to act in a way that achieves what is desired."

Okay, so this is still basic catechetical stuff:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations....
But I can't do what I should do if I myself don't have a spirit of adoption, if I am not in the habit of wanting everyone I meet to be my brother or sister and a joint heir with Christ.

In olden days, they'd talk of "zeal for souls." (In her own zeal, St. Catherine of Siena talked of eating souls.) These days, zeal for souls is widely regarded as foolishness. If it's not triumphalistic, it's tacky -- or, coming at it from a different direction, it's throwing pearls before swine.

I suspect, though, that zeal for souls was always widely regarded as foolishness, and impressions to the contrary arise because it's the zealous who make history.

And I'm quite certain that, whatever the spirit of the age might say about it, the Holy Spirit remains a Spirit of adoption, and the true children of God go out and make disciples, whom God makes His children.

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