by Carl E. Olson | Catholic World Report blog
Pope Francis made some waves today when he spoke to the plenary assembly of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG) about "men and women of the Church who are careerists and social climbers, who 'use' people, the Church, their brothers and sisters—whom they should be serving—as a springboard for their own personal interests and ambitions." It was another example of how the Holy Father—pick a cliché—pulls no punches and wastes no words.
We'll have more about that particular address and related matters soon, but I want to reflect a moment on Francis's general audience today, which focused on the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of divine life, and the mystery of divine sonship. These are topics and themes that he has touched on several times already in the first weeks of his pontificate. A month ago, in his April 10th general audience, Francis asked, "What does the Resurrection mean for our life?" His answer, in part, is that the Resurrection (as the Apostle Paul explained) is not just freedom from, but freedom for: "we are set free from the slavery of sin and become children of God; that is, we are born to new life." This freedom is received in and through the sacrament of Baptism. Having received the sacrament,
the baptized person emerged from the basin and put on a new robe, the white one; in other words, by immersing himself in the death and Resurrection of Christ he was born to new life. He had become a son of God. In his Letter to the Romans St Paul wrote: “you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry ‘Abba! Father! it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15-16).
It is the Spirit himself whom we received in Baptism who teaches us, who spurs us to say to God: “Father” or, rather, “Abba!”, which means “papa” or [“dad”]. Our God is like this: he is a dad to us. The Holy Spirit creates within us this new condition as children of God. And this is the greatest gift we have received from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. Moreover God treats us as children, he understands us, he forgives us, he embraces us, he loves us even when we err. In the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah was already affirming that even if a mother could forget her child, God never forgets us at any moment (cf. 49:15). And this is beautiful!
This gift of supernatural filiation goes by many names, including divinization, deification, and theosis, as it is widely known in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches. It is a teaching that has long interested me. It was a key reason for becoming Catholic many years ago, and it is the focus of a book I am co-editing with Fr. David Meconi, SJ, editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review and assistant professor of theological studies at Saint Louis University, whose doctoral dissertation was on St. Augustine’s use of deification. The book has fifteen chapters by fourteen contributors (as well as a Foreword by Dr. Scott Hahn) and it covers two thousand years of Catholic teaching on the topic of theosis, beginning with Scripture and concluding with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and recent papal documents. This week, I am finishing up the final section of the opening chapter, co-authored with Fr. Meconi, on theosis in Sacred Scripture.
And so today's audience by Francis caught my attention, as he returns to the same themes as he highlighted a month ago. For example: