Divine Sonship is Our Inheritance

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

On 1 January, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, and the 29th World Day of Peace, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in St Peter's Basilica. "In him, the divine sonship has become our inheritance. By God's will, as adoptive sons we are coheirs of the eternal Son, called to participate in the life of God, in eternal happiness in him", the Pope said in his homily, which was given in Italian. Here is a translation.

1. "He was called Jesus" Lk 2:21.

The Gospel which has just been proclaimed recalls that, after the eight days prescribed, the Son of Mary, born in Bethlehem, was given the name Jesus, the name the angel had called him before he was conceived in his Mother's womb (cf. Lk 2:21). Thus it was the name given him by the heavenly Father.

Jesus means: 'God saves. With this name we begin the New Year: 1,996 years since Christ's birth. The fact that the years of our era are numbered from Christ's birth is very eloquent. It shows that Jesus is the centre of history. The Son of God assumed human nature in Christ. And it is precisely the mystery of the Incarnation which fully explains the meaning of the name Jesus: 'Your God ... will come and save you' (Is 35:4). Human time is totally pervaded by God's saving mystery. The history of humanity has become the history of salvation.

The first day of the New Year, together with the remembrance of Jesus' name, thus reveals this deep meaning. It is the Octave of the Birth of the Lord, in which the Church venerates in particular the divine maternity of the Mother of God. The first day of the New Year is , the feast of the Mother of the God-Man, the Theotokos.

2. The passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Galatians read in today's liturgy is, in a certain sense a commentary on the name Jesus. The Apostle reveals in a concise way all that is contained in the meaning of this name, showing how God saves. Thus we read: 'God sent forth his Son, born of woman ... so that we might receive adoption as sons' (Gal 4:4-5). Salvation therefore is fulfilled in our adoption as children: in Christ, the only Son of God, men became God's adoptive children.

Jesus' name shows he is our Saviour

We therefore understand how the name 'Jesus' contains a special dynamism. God not only orders that his Son be called by the name Jesus, but at the same time he shows, in this name, the depth and the vastness of the mystery of salvation. The name Jesus reveals the mystery of adoption as children of God. St Paul adds almost prophetically: 'And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, saying, 'Abba! Father!" (Gal 4:6). Jesus taught us to address God with the words: 'Our Father!'. But these human words draw from the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of the Son, their own power. When we pray, "Abba, our Father' our human words are first of all a way of sharing in the life of the eternal Word, the Son consubstantial with the Father. Through this 'participation', the invocation "Abba! our Father!' becomes an expression of salvation.

Christ is the Saviour of the world, because through him and in him all men can pronounce this word, the word which belongs fully to him alone, the eternal Son. In him, the divine sonship has become our inheritance. By God's will, as adoptive sons we are coheirs of the eternal Son, called to participate in the life of God, in eternal happiness in him.

3. The name Jesus, "God saves, testifies that he is our Saviour. The readings of today's liturgy once again present us with the universal dimension of salvation, to which all men and all peoples are called, through the mystery of the Incarnation. The responsorial psalm clearly highlights this: 'Let the nations be glad and sing for joy for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth' (Ps 66 [67]:4). What the first reading attributes to the children of Israel, the psalm extends to the peoples and nations of the earth. Salvation is meant for all humanity. It is not the secret privilege of one individual or people but is shared by all people.

It is a participation which comes through the holy fear of God, the beginning of wisdom (cf. Ps 110[111]:10). The coming of the world's Redeemer, for those who welcome him with reverential and grateful fear, marks the be- ginning of a new order, the divine order. God's saving will is expressed by the birth of the Son of God in human nature. The divine providence which guides the world's destiny was made manifest; the definitive justice of history was announced, a justice combined with mercy. For this reason the psalmist proclaimed: 'May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all the nations' (Ps 66 [67]:1-2). In this way the Christmas mystery and the very name of 'Jesus' represent for humanity the sign of the divine order, in which the history of creation and of every people and nation is contained.

Therefore, the Church rightly celebrates World Day of Peace on this first day of the New Year. This year its theme is demanding: 'Let us give children a future of peace'. 'The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace' (Nm 6:26), today's first reading proclaims. Peace, a fundamental sign of the divine presence, must also shine forth in the political order and in the life of communities and nations. Paul VI's well known words: 'the new name for peace is development' (Populorum progressio n. 87), could be inverted and formulated like this: peace is the new name for development and the social order.

Peace in biblical language indicates participation in the salvation which comes from God. Peace is already contained in the name that was given to the Son of God eight days after his birth. This name means salvation from every evil, especially from hatred, war and destruction. For this reason the Apostle Paul was to say of Christ: "For he is our peace" (Eph 2:14).

God has spoken to us in his Son

4. 'In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son' (Gospel Acclamation: cf. Heb 1:1-2). In these words we find the passage from the Old to the New Covenant. God has spoken through his Son, through his life and his Gospel. He has spoken to us through his Death and Resurrection, and in a particular way, through his name: Jesus, 'God saves'. Everything contained in it: his life, his Passion, Death and Resurrection, the Cross and glory. All the Good News.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews mentions that this name was reserved to 'these last days'. At the beginning of the New Year we are aware that in the name of Jesus, the last days, the time for the fulfilment of all things in God, has come decisively close to humanity. And in virtue of this name we move towards man's final goal, 'the fullness of time' (cf Gal 4:4), to which Christ leads us through the Holy Spirit.

Guided by this force we already repeat: "Abba! Father!", here on earth, to prepare ourselves for the event which, precisely in Jesus' name, is manifested at the end of time for every man and for the entire human family.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
10 January 1996, page 3.

L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See.
The Weekly Edition in English is published for the US by:

The Cathedral Foundation
L'Osservatore Romano English Edition
320 Cathedral St.
Baltimore, MD 21201
Subscriptions: (410) 547-5315
Fax: (410) 332-1069