The Hardest thing to Accept about the Catholic Faith
I believe that if I were to ask which teaching of the Church Catholics have the most difficulty accepting, most people would come up with answers relative to morality: human sexuality, marriage, life issues, forgiveness of our enemies and the like. However, in my experience, the teaching of the Church most often misunderstood, and not fully accepted is the doctrine of Divine Sonship. Meaning, that when we are baptized we become a Child of God. Now, I understand that most people can accept this on a surface level. As we were all created by God, isn’t indeed all of humanity children of God? In the sense that we all have our origin in God, yes. But there is a unique sonship in the baptized:
Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 1265)
This means that as a member of the Church, my identity IS Christ. I have become a co-heir with Jesus Christ to the Kingdom of God. I have become a Son of God Most High. This is something that can never be taken away from me. From the moment of my baptism, my soul is forever changed. Though I can forfeit my birthright through mortal sin (intentionally turning from God), my identity is in Christ. Even if I forfeit this right God the Father, is always waiting to restore it to me in the sacrament of Reconciliation, because I am a Son of God.
The reason why I say this is hard for people to accept is that even though we are Christians, I see so many of us taking identity in other attributes: Professional career, athletic ability, physical appearance, sexual inclinations, marital status, popularity, positions in the Church. All of these things may be attributes, or features, or facts about us, but they are not the core of our identity. I am a Son of God. This is my identity. This is who I am at my very core. When I understand this, I cannot be dissuaded when things do not go as I have planned: when careers fade, when relationships fail, when tragic life-changing events occur. if I am secure in my identity as a Son of God, then I cannot be shaken by the waves of this world, because even if I lose everything, my identity, my core is unshaken.
This world, and it’s prince, the devil want you and I to forget our birthright and loose our identity. This fact is why symbols of baptism, in particular Holy Water, are powerful weapons in our spiritual life. Holy Water reminds us, and the powers of darkness, that we have been born anew and infused with God’s grace, having become his children, his heirs. This is what reminds us every time we enter the Church (or even our homes) and mark ourselves with Holy Water in the sign of the Cross.
This week, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Epiphany, meaning the Manifestation of Jesus as God to all people, and next week we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Christ reveals himself to us, but in addition, he reveals who we are called to be in him. As Catholic Christians it is time for us to recover from identity theft and identity crisis. Do not allow our identity to be stolen and replaced by something that is fleeting and passing. Rather, let us stand firmly grounded in who we are. Let us, as Children of God and heirs to his kingdom, claim authority over the lies of the world and stand as Children of light, born anew and chosen for God. As Mufasa told his kingly heir, Simba in Disney’s The Lion King, “Remember who you are!”