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Adoption through baptism

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus Christ’s final command to his disciples before ascending into heaven, called the Great Commission, might seem a simple and straightforward order for action. But its use on the Sunday dedicated to the mystery of the blessed Trinity tells us that something more is going on. This command, more than just a practical directive, leads us to the truth of what it means to be a Christian, foretelling the great destiny that awaits those who remain faithful to their baptism.

First, we must consider that the command of Jesus follows from his desire. This might seem obvious, but Christ does not use his last moment on earth to command baptism merely for the spread of intellectual faith. Baptism is, of course, an incorporation of a human soul into the living body of Christ himself. By giving this command at this moment, the Lord makes clear that he wishes to draw every living person into union with him, into his own mystical body, the church. Christ wants every human soul to receive the grace of union present in baptism.

But this is not the entire meaning contained here. The Lord does not command us to baptize in his name only, or in the name of his body, but rather commands us to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  We are to be introduced not only in Jesus’ own risen life, but in him, to be introduced into the life of the triune God. Christ, in John’s Gospel, tells us “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” (Jn 15:9) and asks the Father, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us,” and “I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world (Jn 17:21, 24).”

Jesus’ desire is not just that we should be joined to him, but that we should experience, by adoption, the love of the Father that he has by nature. Christ wishes to bring us into the inner life of God, and to share it as “partakers in the divine nature.”

This tremendous gift, which should always sound a little too good to be true, is the great destiny of the baptized soul. As St. Leo the Great, in a Christmas homily, said: “O Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share God’s nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition.” In heaven, if we remain faithful, we will know the blessed Trinity not merely by knowledge of the truth that there is one God in three persons, not merely by faith in that truth, but by vision and participation in the life that God himself lives. And of course, this life does not wait for heaven to begin growing within us, but already, through baptism, through consuming Christ in the Eucharist, we already carry within our souls the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

This knowledge should, especially this Sunday, lift our hearts above our day-to-day concerns, and carry them into heaven, where Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand awaiting us, and where we set the anchor of our hope.

Fr. Rampino is parochial vicar of Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021