The Promise of Faith
Saturday, February 18, 2023
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
Editor's note: Father Knight had many talents. Unfortunately, computer file management was not one of those talents. Thus, I have so far been unable to locate Fr. Knight's reflections on the daily readings from today until Feb 22 (Ash Wednesday). Consequently, starting today, I will post selections from The Five Promises of Baptism on weekdays. (Full copies of the booklet are available here.) On Sundays, I will post reflections on the Mass readings -- if I can find those files! Pray for me! ~~ Lynne Marie
The gift of faith is an experience of divine enlightenment. "What do you ask of God's Church?" The candidate for Baptism could just as well answer, "Enlightenment."
In fact, in the Greek Church, Baptism is sometimes simply called "enlightenment" because those who receive the gift of faith through it are enlightened in their understanding. This puts the focus on Baptism as the "sacrament of faith;' the sacrament which gives us a share in the divine knowing of God. (For references see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1216.)
We share in God's own act of knowing by sharing in God's own life. And we share in God's life by "becoming Christ" through incorporation into his body at Baptism. In other words, faith is an experience of identification with Christ. Because we are "in Christ" we "have the mind of Christ." (See 1 Corinthians 2:16). This is an experience of the Holy Spirit. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ''Abba! Father!"
No one can rightly call God "Father" except God the Son. When Jesus said, ''No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son;' he was enunciating a principle of metaphysics! To know God as God you have to be God. To know the Father as Father you have to be God the Son. God himself could not empower any creature to do this. To know God as he is in himself is what it means to be God! To enable any human to do this, God would have to make that creature God. (See Matthew 11:27)
And that is exactly what God does in giving us "grace." Grace is the favor of sharing in the divine life of God. Jesus seemed to contradict himself when after saying "no one knows the Father except the Son." He added, "... and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
The fact is, Jesus does enable us to know the Father; and he does it in the only way it can be done: by letting us share in his own act of knowing the Father. He does this by incorporating us into his body and sharing with us his life as God the Son made flesh. "In Christ" we know the Father as "sons and daughters in the Son." *
It may have shocked us when (in the treatment of the first promise of Baptism) Fr. Michael Casey cited, "the teaching of many Church Fathers, particularly those of the East;' to say that "Christian life consists not so much in being good as in becoming God:'
It may shock us more to read in the Liturgy of the Hours, "Those who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: the Son of God and God himself!" **
But this is the only way we can receive the enlightenment of Baptism. We have to "become Christ:' so that "in Christ" we can know the Father by sharing in the Son's own divine act of knowing God. That is the gift of faith. That is what we ask for at Baptism. That is what Baptism promises. That is what Baptism gives.
* This mystery of incorporation into Christ is a basic theme of St. Paul's letters. He uses the expression "in Christ" or its equivalent 164 times. And 29 times he uses the prefix syn- in Greek ("co-" in English) to express our union with Christ, as members of his body, in what he did and we do. Fernand Prat, S.J., gives the list in his The Theology of St. Paul, tr. John Stoddard (Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1934), Vol. II, pages 18-20 and 391-395: "In Christ" we co-suffer: Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 12:26; are co-crucified: Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; we co-die:
2 Timothy2:ll; c£ 2 Corinthians 7:3; are co-buried: Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; co-resurrected:
Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1; we co-live: Romans 6:8; are co-vivified (returned to life):
Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13; co-formed (configured): Philippians 3:10; Romans 8:21;
co-glorified: Romans 8:17; co-seated: Ephesians 2:6; we co-reign: 2 Timothy 2:12; cf.
1 Corinthians 4:8; are co-planted: Romans 6:5; co-heirs: Romans 8:17; Ephesians 3:6; co-sharers:
Ephesians 3:6; 5:7; co-incarnated (embodied): Ephesians 3:6; co-built: Ephesians 2:22; co-structured (and connected): Ephesians 2:21; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19. And add 1 Corinthians 3:9: we are co-workers with God (synergoi), quoted in Vatican II on "Missionary Activity;' no. 15, and2 Corinthians 6:1: co-working (synergountes). See also Joseph Fitzmyer, S.J., Pauline Theology, Prentice-Hall, 1967, pages 67-70.
** Blessed Isaac of Stella in the Liturgy of the Hours, second reading, Friday, fifth week of Easter. Blessed Isaac adds some theological precisions: "What Christ is by nature we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness, we are as participants. Finally, what the Son of God is by generation, his members are by adoption." But the precisions are just qualifications of the basic fact: that by "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" we are identified with Jesus and we become divine.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry