But after reading today's first reading, I thought of those amniotic bands a little differently. I thought that maybe those bands were God's way of reaching out to my daughter. Of course He loved her with His infinite fatherly love and maybe He wanted so desperately to touch her that He was reaching out to her while she was still in utero. But the prayers of my family held off His touch and He had to wait to hold her through the arms of Paul and I after she was born. Our arms are the human cords, the bands of God's love.
Now Mary is a wonderful and well-loved daughter. Not a day goes by that Paul and I aren't holding her and telling her how much we love her and thanking her for being such a constant joy to our days. (OK-full disclosure: She doesn't hear about our love and gratitude when she is singing Justin Bieber songs at the top of her lungs. Of course we still do love her despite the volume of her voice and the choice of musicians she admires-we just don't express it very well at those moments. She wouldn't be able to hear us anyway!)
God loves all of us like that; He can hardly stand to let a minute go by without wrapping us in His loving embrace. He gives us friends and family to reach out to us and hold us in their arms and to whisper kind words of love and care to our hearts. How important it is for all of us to be the bands of God's love for one another, to lift each other's spirits like an infant to our cheeks-so tenderly and with the greatest of care.
Yesterday, I posted some links to a wonderfully uplifting blog by Meg, a young girl with a gift for reaching out to others with human cords of encouragement, and her post You Are a Princess, was along these very same lines; it was a reminder that God loves each of us exactly how we are, we are His beloved daughters (and sons!) But sometimes we need to hear that message of God's love more than once, at least, I often do! Today God sent me another message of His deep and abiding love through the words of Bishop Donald Hying's column published in the July 12th Milwaukee Catholic Herald. Read it and know that you, too, are loved by God, your adoptive father, who only wants you to know that He will love you forever and always and will never let you go. He holds you in his bands of love and He always will.
Adopted Sons and Daughters of God by Bishop Donald Hying
As Christians, we believe that in Jesus Christ – his life, death and resurrection – we receive a new identity, initiated at baptism, by which we enter into the very life of the Blessed Trinity as sons and daughters of the Father. The Sonship which Jesus enjoys in relation to the Father and Holy Spirit is graciously shared with us.
In multiple places in his epistles, e.g., Romans 8, Galatians 4 and Ephesians 1, St. Paul articulates his understanding of spiritual adoption. On a mystical level, Paul came to believe that the Christ event fundamentally changed humanity’s relationship to God. Jesus gains for us the forgiveness of sins, the promise of eternal salvation and a new intimacy with God, sprung from our filial relationship with the Father.
Jesus loves us so much that he shares his total self, even his divine relationships. Clinging to nothing as his own, Jesus opens up his own relation to the Father to us. What he is by nature, we become through divine adoption. In baptism, we can call God “Abba” just as Jesus does, because we are sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, temples of the Holy Spirit. One gets the sense in Paul’s writings that he never got over the amazing graciousness of this divine filiation.
As St. John says, we are children of God, baptized into the priesthood of Jesus Christ, anointed by the Holy Spirit, created for love, destined to live forever. When we fall into sin or despair, we suffer from temporary amnesia; we have forgotten who we are.
I know this probably sounds crazy, but when I am walking through an airport or sitting on a subway, I feel the urge to go up to people and ask them if they know they are children of God. Maybe they do, but oftentimes it seems we have lost our way, as we painfully see the violence, poverty, hatred and disregard for human life that daily wracks our planet.
When we know our identity in Christ and our divine purpose, we can do all things through the One who strengthens us. Our lives matter and what we do in this life has eternal implications.
All of us struggle to authentically love ourselves. I know people who almost despise themselves, so often because they were not loved and nurtured as children. When we wholeheartedly embrace our identity as children of God, we can ground our self-esteem in the love of the Father. Then it doesn’t matter so much what other people think of us, or even what we think of ourselves.
The greatest truth is that God finds us loveable and good. I find the greatest antidote to self-hatred, despair, fear, anger and self-pity to be a solid meditation on spiritual adoption.
When the saints experienced the extraordinary love of God, they came to know themselves, the deep and real “soul” of their human nature, as a daughter or son of the Father, loved and created to love. When Paul experienced Jesus on the road to Damascus, when Francis of Assisi kissed a leper, when Augustine heard Ambrose preaching, when Therese of Lisieux read I Corinthians, when Edith Stein observed a stranger at prayer, when Mother Teresa picked up her first dying person, an explosion of divine love occurred which changed them forever.
The extraordinary deeds of the saints are grounded in their self-understanding as children of God.
Try meditating every day for several minutes on who you are in Jesus Christ. Go to the index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and look up the passages on adoption in Christ. When I do this, I find peace, patience with others and myself, a deeper ability to forgive, a greater capacity to see the bigger picture; I find it easier to love others because they are children of God as well.
In heaven, we will all be walking around more radiant than the sun, filled with the glory of God, free of sin, conflict and division. So why do we need to wait until then to live out our identity as beloved children of the Father? Let’s go live it now!