Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Easter; Father John McCusker, OSB
Most of us know a family with an adopted a child. I have taught a few in our school, and it’s always remarkable to me to see the bond between an adopted child and parent, in spite of the lack of a blood connection. It is a testimony to the blessing of a relationship founded not on natural blood ties, but on love, of course it’s also a great leap of faith, taking an unknown child into one’s family and home.
In this Easter season, the Church asks that we reflect on the grace of our Baptism. The font is present in the sanctuary for all 50 days—a physical reminder to renew and deepen that foundational grace.
We heard about the effect of Baptism in Peter’s Pentecost sermon: “repent, and be converted, that your sins be wiped away.” Baptism first of all cleanses us of sin, both the original and personal. This is why water is the Sacramental sign—it effects, and actualizes the cleansing of the soul from sin like water cleanses the body.
And this, because as we heard in the second reading “He is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.” This spiritual cleansing flows from his Passion, the blood and water poured out from his side on the cross. And it calls us again to renewed repentance and conversion.
But there is another effect of Baptism. We not only are cleansed of our sins, but receive a new birth as adopted sons and daughters of God. Water points to new life and birth, so it signifies and in the sacrament makes real our supernatural birth as sons and daughters of God. Our souls are born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, by water and spirit, in the Baptismal font which acts as the womb of the Church.
Like those adoptive families we know, this adoptive relationship is founded not on natural ties—what claim could we possibly have to be a child of God, whose nature is infinitely above ours? Rather, it’s founded on love and faith and grace.
Blessed Columba Marmion, who was a Benedictine Abbot and great spiritual writer from the 20th century, wrote eloquently about this topic; if he were ever declared a Doctor of the Church, I think he would be the “doctor of divine adoption.” Here’s what he has to say:
“By nature, God has only one Son. By love, He [has] a multitude of them, without number. This is the grace of supernatural adoption… … [our] Holiness consists in [living] a life of adopted sons [and daughters], a life [with] grace as the mainspring … become reality through Jesus Christ.
To be holy means to live out of that adoptive relationship received in Baptism. St. John describes what this holiness looks like: “Whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in Him.” Being perfected in the love of God means fully embracing and living out of that deepest identity as the beloved son or daughter of the Father, revealed in his Word, just as Jesus realized his own perfection and holiness in his natural relationship to the Father.
Have you ever wondered why in His resurrection appearances Jesus is always saying “Peace be with you”? Because the Apostles were afraid, right?
Well the Jewish word is “shalom,” and it means much more than just ‘calm down.’
When there is “shalom,” between two people, it means the relationship is whole. When Jesus says “peace be with you,” it’s his way of saying “there is nothing missing in our relationship—I as God no longer have anything against you. We are reconciled.” Shalom.
Remember also the words Jesus gave to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning: “Tell my brethren, I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
That adoptive bond has been formed.
And like the Apostles when they saw the risen Lord were “incredulous for joy and amazed,” and then are later described as “continually in the Temple praising God,” our divine adoption leads to joy, praise, and thanksgiving.
This is the task for Easter—to us who have “received the power to become children of God,” it is for us to realize our adoption more deeply, live out of it, and in turn offer God glory and praise for this tremendous gift.