Tuesday, August 21, 2007


St. Josemaria Escriva would insist that the foundation of our spirituality, indeed, the foundation of our sanctity, is our divine filiation, the fact that we are children of God.

“For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Now you have not received a spirit of bondage so as to be again in fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by virtue of which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself gives testimony to our spirit that we are sons of God. But if we are sons, we are heirs also: heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ, provided, however, we suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:14-17)

Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were friends of God. After the Fall, they became “enemies” of God and slaves to sin—the “wounded” human nature inherited by all their descendants. With the redemption accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary 2000+ years ago, mankind, “in Christ”, became “children of God”. So now we are no longer slaves to sin, nor even just friends of God, but sons, entitled to call God “Abba, Father!” and to inherit the kingdom. That is why the Liturgy of the Easter Vigil (Exsultet) contains a line in which we exclaim, “O, happy fault,” Felix culpa!, in reference to the sin of Adam and Eve as the “cause” of the Incarnation, Redemption and our adoption as children of God. Indeed, this provides a partial explanation for the mystery of why God allows evil (He is never the author of evil but allows it): because He can make even greater good come out of it.

While the redemption has been accomplished in history by our Lord Jesus Christ, the application of its benefits is a continuing work: people continue to be born (and will continue until the end of time) who will receive its benefits individually. We receive the benefits of redemption by our “incorporation” into Christ, by becoming part of Him, members of His (mystical) Body (the Church), which is accomplished through “sanctifying grace” first received in the Sacrament of Baptism. Thus, we can say with St. Paul, “I live, now, not I, but Christ lives in me,” Vivo autem iam non ego sed Christus vivit in me vero (Gal 2:20). We are sons of God because God the Father sees in us His only-begotten Son. We venerate the saints because they are people like us who have permanently achieved this state: they are eternally in God the Son, united with God the Father in the love Who is God the Holy Spirit.

While we live on earth, we are in a position to freely increase (or diminish even to the point of disappearance) this life of God in us. The grace of being Christ-like given us at Baptism should grow as we grow humanly, in which we also need God’s grace but must also freely cooperate. God created us free to direct ourselves freely to our end; hence, as St. Augustine puts it, “God created us without us but will not save us without us.” We have to want to become saints.

The work of our own sanctification may be expressed as growing more and more like Christ, who is also the model for our behavior. Indeed, the task of spiritual directors, among others, is to help us “chisel-away” the “rough spots” (to use a metaphor of St. Josemaria), to become, eventually, alter Christus, ipse Christus, “another Christ, Christ Himself”. We should say of our lives, and mean it, like St. John the Baptist: “He must increase, I must decrease,” Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui (Jn 3:29). Thus, the struggle for sanctification may also be expressed as the “imitation of Christ”.

We become like Christ through sanctifying grace and grow in it by our efforts (also aided by grace) to model our interior dispositions and behavior on our Lord Jesus Christ, which presupposes an intimate personal relationship with Him (knowing and loving Him). But we become most Christlike in this life on earth in Holy Communion received worthily and with the proper dispositions: then (and for as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain in us), we are also physically, truly Him (we become His Body that we eat).

God initially created and called man to be His co-operator (co-worker) in the work of creation (of bringing the material universe to greater and greater perfection): “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Gen 2:15). After the Fall of Adam and Eve, the main thrust of God’s work has been to prepare mankind for the redemption accomplished by our Lord Jesus Christ. But this work of redemption is a continuing work. We are also called to be Christ’s co-operators in this work of redemption (God’s new creation, the heavenly city of Jerusalem). Thus, the vocation to sanctity is also a vocation to apostolate.

If sanctity means imitating our Lord in His Sacred Humanity, then closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary is indispensable: she “formed” Him physically in her womb and spiritually as well in His infancy and childhood. If we are to become Christ Himself, we must also be sons of Mary.