Conscious of our dignity as sons and daughters of the Father, may we resolve to reconcile all divisions, to embrace fully our unity in Christ and our vocation to be convincing witnesses of the unity to which, in purpose salvific of God, the whole human family is called. Gaudium et Spes, 1
Dec 31 2021
Let us continue our journey of deepening the faith – our faith – in the light of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. The Apostle urges these Christians not to forget the novelty of the revelation of God which has been announced to them. Entirely in agreement with the evangelist John (cf. 1 Jn 3: 1-2), Paul emphasizes that faith in Jesus Christ has enabled us to truly become children of God and also his heirs. We Christians often take this reality of being God’s children for granted. Instead, it is good to remember with gratitude the moment we became such, the moment of our baptism, in order to live with greater awareness the great gift that we have received. If I asked you today, “Which of you knows the exact date of your baptism?” I don’t think there’d be too many hands up … Yet that’s the day we got saved, that’s the day we became children of God. Now those who don’t know should ask their godparents, their dad, their mom, uncle, aunt, “When was I baptized?” And this day must be remembered every year: it is the day when we became children of God. Okay? Will you all do this? [Response from the crowd.] Hey, that’s a so-so “yes”. [Laughter]. Let’s go on.
In fact, once “faith has come” in Jesus Christ (v. 25), a radically new condition has been created which leads to divine sonship. The filiation of which Paul speaks is no longer a general filiation involving all men and all women insofar as they are sons and daughters of the same Creator.
Children of God “in Christ”
No, in the passage we have heard he says that faith enables us to be children of God “in Christ” (v. 26). This is what is new. It is this “in Christ” that makes the difference. Not just children of God, like everyone else: all men and women are children of God, all, whatever religion we follow. No. But “in Christ” is what makes the difference for Christians, and this only happens by participating in the redemption of Christ, and in us in the sacrament of baptism: this is how it begins. Jesus became our brother, and through his death and resurrection he reconciled us to the Father. Whoever accepts Christ in faith has “put on” Christ and his filial dignity by baptism (cf. v. 27). That’s what he says in verse 27.
Grace of Baptism
In his Letters, Saint Paul refers more than once to baptism. For him, to be baptized was to participate effectively and truly in the mystery of Jesus. For example, in the Letter to the Romans, he will even go so far as to say that in baptism we died with Christ and were buried with him to live with him (cf. 6, 3-14). Died with Christ, buried with him to live with him.
It is the grace of baptism: to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is therefore not simply an outward rite. Those who receive it are transformed in the depths of their being, and have a new life, which precisely allows them to turn to God and to invoke him “Abba”, that is to say “daddy”. “Dad”? No: “daddy” (cf. Gal 4, 6).
The Apostle boldly confirms that the identity received with baptism is so new that it outweighs the differences that exist on the ethnico-religious level. That is to say, he explains it thus: “There is neither Jew nor Greek”, even on the social plain, “there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female ”(Ga 3,28). We often read these expressions too quickly, without grasping the revolutionary value they possess. For Paul, writing to the Galatians that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek” was tantamount to genuine subversion in the ethno-religious domain. By belonging to a chosen people, the Jew was privileged over the pagan (cf. Rom 2, 17-20). – as the Letter to the Romans says, chapter 2, verses 17 to 20; Paul himself affirms this (cf. Rom 9,4-5). It is therefore not surprising that this new teaching of the Apostle may seem heretical. “What, everyone is equal? We’re different! ”Sounds a bit heretical, doesn’t it? Even the second set of ties, between those who were“ free ”and those who were“ slaves, ”introduced a shocking prospect.
The distinction between slaves and free citizens was vital in ancient society. By law, free citizens enjoyed all rights, while the human dignity of slaves was not even recognized. It still happens today. There are many people in the world, many, millions, who do not have the right to eat, who do not have the right to education, who do not have the right to work. These are the new slaves. They are the ones who live on the margins, who are exploited by everyone. Slavery still exists today – let’s think about that a bit. Human dignity is denied to these people. They are slaves. Thus, finally, equality in Christ overcomes social differences between the two sexes, establishing an equality between men and women which was revolutionary at the time and which must be reaffirmed even today. How often do we hear expressions that denigrate women! How many times do we hear: “No, don’t do anything, these are women’s concerns”. But, look, men and women have the same dignity. And it happened in history, even today, a form of slavery of women: women do not have the same opportunities as men. We must read what Paul says: we are equal in Jesus Christ.
As we see, Paul confirms the deep unity that exists among all the baptized, on whatever condition they are related, male or female – equal because each of them is a new creation in Christ. Any distinction becomes secondary to the dignity of being children of God who, through his love, creates real and substantial equality. All, through the redemption of Christ and the baptism that we have received, we are all equal: children of God. Equal.
Live a new life
Brothers and sisters, we are therefore called in a more positive way to live a new life which roots its foundational expression in being children of God. Equal because we are children of God; and children of God because Christ redeemed us and we have attained this dignity through baptism. It is even decisive for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, of being brothers and sisters among ourselves, because we have been united in Christ, who redeemed us. The differences and contrasts created by separation should not exist among believers in Christ. And one of the apostles, in the Letter of James, says this: “Be aware of the differences, for it is not right that when someone enters the assembly (ie mass) wearing a gold ring and well dressed, ‘Ah, get up here, get up here!’, and you give him one of the front seats. Then if somebody else comes in, obviously poor, who can pretty much cover up and you see they’re poor, poor, poor, ‘Oh, yeah, you can go over there in the back. ‘. We create these differences, many times unconsciously. No, we are equal! Our vocation is rather to make concrete and evident the call to the unity of the whole human race (cf. Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Cost. Lumen Gentium, 1).
Anything that exacerbates the differences between men, often causing discrimination – all of this, before God, has no more basis, thanks to the salvation wrought in Christ. What is important is this faith which operates according to the path of unity indicated by the Holy Spirit. And our responsibility is to walk decisively on this path of equality, but an equality that is sustained, that was created by the redemption of Jesus. And remember when you get home: “When was I baptized?” Educate yourself to always have the date in mind. And when the date comes, it can be celebrated.