Divine Filiation: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 16, 2014 (Year A)

The Spinner by William Adolphe Bouguereau

The Spinner by William Adolphe Bouguereau (1873)

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Fruits of the fear of the Lord. Doctrine: Children of God or divine filiation. Practical application: A brief summary of some of the consequences of divine filiation in the Christian life.

To view Lectionary 157, click here.

Central idea: Fruits of the fear of the Lord

Reading 1 Prv 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil,
all the days of her life.
She obtains wool and flax
and works with loving hands.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her fingers ply the spindle.
She reaches out her hands to the poor,
and extends her arms to the needy.
Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting;
the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her a reward for her labors,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

  • What does it mean for a woman to fear the LORD? It means she puts God first in her life and does everything else in light of that decision.
  • What does the life of a woman who fears the LORD look like? She does good and not evil. She works diligently, with loving hands. Her work produces good things. Through her work she can help her neighbor in need.
  • This is the inner beauty and charm for which such a woman deserves praise and a reward.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord.

Blessed are you who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
Your children like olive plants
around your table.

Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.

  • What does it mean for a man to fear the LORD? It means he puts God first in his life and does everything else in light of that decision.
  • What does the life of a man who fears the LORD look like? He works diligently and not in vain: “you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork.” The good that he does blesses others, beginning with his family: “Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the recesses of your home; Your children like olive plants around your table.”
  • His decision to fear the LORD results in blessings for him and those in his care.

Reading 2 1 Thes 5:1-6

Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters,
you have no need for anything to be written to you.
For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come
like a thief at night.
When people are saying, “Peace and security,”
then sudden disaster comes upon them,
like labor pains upon a pregnant woman,
and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness,
for that day to overtake you like a thief.
For all of you are children of the light
and children of the day.
We are not of the night or of darkness.
Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do,
but let us stay alert and sober.

  • The day of the Lord is when God will judge each person. Everyone knows in some way that he will be judged according to the morality of his acts. Many persons try to ignore this and say all is well: “Peace and security.” Such persons will be blindsided.
  • To be awake, sober and alert as a child of the light and of the day means to live like the woman in Proverbs and the man in the Psalm: To fear God, meaning to put him first and to live accordingly, to do good and not evil, and to work and produce good things for everyone’s benefit.

Gospel Mt 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.

After a long time
the master of those servants came back
and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents came forward
bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

  • The woman and the man who fear God and act accordingly are to be praised and are blessed. They are entrusted with some talents, abilities, potentialities. They employ them and bear some fruit. And they receive a reward: They share in their master’s joy when he calls them to account.
  • Some people are given enormous talents and advantages. Others seemingly receive much less. Still others appear to be given disadvantages. But everyone has scope to do some good in the time of his or her life.
  • The master in the parable calls the servant who did nothing with the talent entrusted to him wicked and lazy and punishes him by taking away what he had been given and by having him thrown “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
  • This is why it is good to pray: Lord, may I bear fruit.

Doctrine: Children of God or Divine Filiation

  • To be a child of the day or a child of the light are metaphors for being a child of God. The technical term for this is divine filiation.
  • Our final end, that is, the purpose for which God created us in the first place, is presented to us in Sacred Scripture in images of blessings: “the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, filiation, rest in God” (CCC 1726).
  • God made man “to make him share in his own blessed life. . . . In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life” (CCC 1).
  • What is this beatitude?
    • It would probably seem enough to us if being adopted by God meant having all the benefits of being taken care of by the greatest person we could ever conceive of—if we were the beneficiaries of the greatest rags to riches story imaginable. Divine filiation is that.
    • If we thought about beatitude more we would probably want to add being healed and rejuvenated physically, morally, and intellectually. Divine filiation is that too.
    • But divine filiation is also divinization: God giving us a share in his own divine life!
    • In one of his general audiences, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke about the ninth century Irish thinker John Scotus Erigena on “theosis” or divinization. Using the ancient metaphor of the smelting of iron, John Scotus Erigena wrote: “just as all red-hot iron is liquefied to the point that it seems nothing but fire and yet the substances remain distinct from one another, so it must be accepted that after the end of this world all nature, both the corporeal and the incorporeal, will show forth God alone and yet remain integral so that God can in a certain way be com-prehended while remaining in-comprehensible and that the creature itself may be transformed, with ineffable wonder, and reunited with God.”
  • That is the mountaintop, so to speak, of being a child of God, but what about now? What does God ask of his children?
    • “Jesus asks for childlike abandonment to the providence of our heavenly Father who takes care of his children’s smallest needs: ‘Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.’” (CCC 305)
    • Jesus also asks for prayer. “Prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father who is good beyond measure, with his Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. . . . The life of prayer is the habit of being in the presence of the thrice–holy God and in communion with him,” made possible because “through Baptism, we have already been united with Christ (CCC 2565). “Our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom (CCC 2736).
    • Jesus asks that we cooperate in transforming our moral lives through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, which “are infused by God into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of acting as his children and of meriting eternal life” (CCC 1813).
    • Jesus asks that we be led and transformed by the Holy Spirit. “This ‘Spirit of the Son’ teaches them to pray to the Father and, having become their life, prompts them to act so as to bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ by charity in action. Healing the wounds of sin, the Holy Spirit renews us interiorly through a spiritual transformation. He enlightens and strengthens us to live as ‘children of light’ through ‘all that is good and right and true.’”(CCC 1695)

Practical application: A brief summary of some of the consequences of divine filiation in the Christian life[1]

  • Because God the Father loves us and will always take care of us, we can abandon ourselves to God the Father’s providence.
  • Our piety can be like that of a little child.
  • We can ask him for gifts.
  • We can see the Mass as the place where we meet our Father.
  • We can love the Church since it is the family home of God.
  • We can value our baptism since that is how we joined God’s family.
  • When we sin, we can play the prodigal son without shame and return to the Father through repentance and the sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • We can imitate Christ our brother because he is the perfect image of our Father.
  • We can love freedom since we are not slaves or wage earners but sons.
  • We can embrace obedience to the will of our Father just as Christ did.
  • All of these consequences of divine filiation are both means by which we can bear good fruit and they are in themselves rewards for fearing God, that is, putting him first in our lives and living accordingly, with his grace.

[1] Paraphrased from Dr. Raul Nidoy http://primacyofreason.blogspot.com/2007/09/divine-filiation.html

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