The Spirit of Adoption

Galatians 4.5
[Christ redeemed] those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

The borrowed use of the word adoption in the context of new technology and puppies has diffused our understanding of an ancient concept once associated with honor and legacy. Adoption for the purpose of redefining family and future was common in ancient Rome; records recovered from the ashes of Pompeii reveal nearly one in every ten city senators grew up in adoptive homes.
In Roman adoption the adoptee legally rescinds their past — canceling debts and expunging records — and receives a future defined by the rights, status, and inheritance of their adoptive family.

Adoption ceremonies in Roman Culture began with the adoptive father paying the price for the adoption. The name of this part of the ceremony, mancipatio, shares a root from which we derive the English word emancipation. Because of the price paid in mancipatio, the past no longer held sway over the adoptee’s future.

The adoption ceremony continued with a legal justification for the transference of fatherhood. This presentation placed the adoptee under the rights and record of the new father — including giving the new child full rights to participate in the inheritance. For most adoptees in Roman culture this was a significant step up — so much so the Romans called this part of the ceremony vindicatio — vindication.
The message of the New Testament announces to Christians the price God paid for our adoption. The Holy Spirit, through Paul’s words in the first part of Romans, lays out the legal argument both for our emancipation as well as our vindication and future.
Because of Christ’s work we can rest in the rights, status, and inheritance of our adoptive family. The Scriptures assure us:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. — Colossians 3.1-3

The modern cultural desire to imbue consumption (of devices, animals, or otherwise) with the deeper meaning of adoption should not only make us leery of ascribing unnecessary value to the temporal, but point us toward the richness of our lives as adopted sons and daughters of the King.

Today’s Reading
2 Samuel 24 (Listen – 4:48)
Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)

A Vision for the Future :: The Weekend Reading List

I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers. — Thomas Merton

In his address to a Joint Session of Congress yesterday the Pontiff quoted from Thomas Merton’s autobiography (above), then shared his appreciation for the priest. “Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Pope Francis presently enjoys a favorability that rivals that of John Paul II among catholics. He has even garnered the approval of 68% of those who have no religious affiliation, according to Pew Research Center. These numbers are directly linked to his ability to speak to modern issues with boldness and clarity, as he did in Bolivia this past July:

The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil.” An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind.

Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home. — Pope Francis

Yesterday the Pope opened his speech to Congress by reminding them, “You are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.” The full transcript reads less like an agenda, as his opponents feared, and more like a reminder: the most destructive forces in our world are directly limited, and promoted, by the action (and inaction) of the government of the world’s most powerful nation.

It isn’t exclusively this message that makes Francis unique in his role. In the Pope’s first exclusive interview he was asked, point-blank, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The Jesuit journalist who framed the question, Father Antonio Spadaro, records that “The pope stares at me in silence. I ask him if this is a question that I am allowed to ask…. He nods that it is, and he tells me:”

I do not know what might be the most fitting description…. I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner… I ​​am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me. — Pope Francis

In this we see a glimpse of a new kind of Pope. Perhaps someone who will not only represent Christian interests among world leaders, but someone standing with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. (After exiting the Capitol yesterday the Pope went directly to a tent outside to eat with those who are homeless.) Could it be approval ratings change when people see a leader who chooses to leverage power rather than bask in it?

In the words selected from Thomas Merton’s biography: prayer, thinking, challenge, new horizons, and dialogue — we see both Pope Francis’ way of understanding the faithful of the past as well as the framework by which he crafts his own future.

Today’s Reading
2 Samuel 21 (Listen – 4:34)
Galatians 1 (Listen – 3:05)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 22 (Listen – 5:22) and Galatians 2 (Listen – 3:44)
2 Samuel 23 (Listen – 5:38) and Galatians 3 (Listen – 4:39)

The Weekend Reading List