We become sons and daughters of God through baptism


We celebrate the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday. The collect (opening prayer) of this Mass reads: “As the Holy Spirit descended upon him, (you) solemnly declared him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be pleasing to you.”

We are his children by adoption. This is the answer to John the Baptist’s question: “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus took on our human nature, and yet he was sinless. His baptism was not to repent of his sinfulness, but as an act of taking our sin upon himself.

It is important for us to reflect on the effect Jesus’ humanity has on our own. We call this “divine filiation”: the fact that through our baptism, we are brought into the reality of Jesus’ incarnation and share in the great honor of being called sons and daughters of God. At our baptism, we are clothed with a white garment. This is a sign of the dignity we have been clothed with by the Holy Spirit. The white garment shows that we are his beloved sons and daughters with whom he is well pleased.

In the baptismal rite we are called, with the help of our family and friends, to bring that dignity unstained into everlasting life. Yet, if you and I are honest, we have not always done our best with that first task we were given as Christians.

Thanks to the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, our own repentance, through sacramental grace, becomes perfect. In the sacrament of reconciliation we turn to Jesus and immerse ourselves in his dignity that transforms us into his righteousness. The practical way of looking at this is when I come to confession with imperfect contrition (“I’m sorry for this sin because it hurt others and I’m afraid of hell”), it is elevated to perfect contrition (“I am sorry because I have offended you God, who are all good and deserving of all my love”).

This is not a consequence of our feelings or our own will, but of the very fact that Jesus willed it to be so. Since we are now adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father, when we come before him with sorrow, wanting to do better, he receives us as his beloved with whom he is well pleased.

Father Joseph Sund is associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish in O’Neill, St. Joseph Mission in Amelia, Sacred Heart Parish in Boyd County, St. Boniface Parish in Stuart and St. Joseph Parish in Atkinson.

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