For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The First Sunday of Advent we saw that a particular kind of love, the kind of love that we call charity, is not merely good will, or even self-sacrifice, but charity is specifically the supernatural love we have for God. Such love for God, St. Paul says, will never end, never disappoint, never fail, and through love for God Christians actualize the law. And I submit to you that we are made for charity, and though we see glimmers of it in this life, though it is appropriate, congruent, and in accord with human nature — indeed though charity is also the fulfillment, the perfection, of our humanity, we cannot achieve charity without the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit. But I also pointed out that our reality is that we already have the supernatural assistance of the Holy Spirit because we received the Holy Spirit, as well as other gifts, when we were baptized.
Christian Baptism has such a radical effect on the baptized child that Jesus and his Apostles said it effects a regeneration, a second birth, a heavenly birth, so that the child, at that moment, as by instruments of water and the spoken word, becomes an offspring of God the Father, a sibling of God the Son, as well as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Of course, that does not mean that the baptized child has moved beyond his nature as a human being. Grace does not destroy nature, grace perfects nature. You were created to become God’s offspring — that is fitting, meet and right, for human nature, but it is achievable only through the supernatural work of God.
The word the Church uses to speak of the grace bestowed in Baptism is the word “infusion.” Christian Baptism infuses the child with the virtue of supernatural love. What do we mean by “infusion?” Ok, this may seem preposterous given the seriousness of baptismal infusion, but a common experience of infusion is the morning cup of coffee that many of us enjoy. What happens to water when it is boiled and added to ground coffee beans is that the water is “infused” with the essence of the coffee bean. It is still water, what we call coffee has not ceased to be water, but in accordance with the nature of water it has been transformed into something richer — even so the transformation is not something contrary to its nature — nevertheless coffee is an impossibility without infusion.
Now if I were to bring water to a boil and then pour it over ice cubes, in place of the coffee beans, I would have transfused nothing at all. Nothing has changed except there is more of the same. If you receive a transfusion of blood during an operation you have only received more blood; the intent was not to add anything but volume. But if you receive an IV drip of medicine you have received an infusion that is meant to add something that will change your state of being sick to a state of being well. Thus when we are baptized we are infused with the Heavenly gifts, specifically the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and that makes it possible for us to existentially, really and truly, fulfill our God-given destiny as children of God. After baptism, in order to nurture the supernatural gifts, we receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ — his perfected human nature, his life, is being infused, into our souls, renewing our lives, and growing the infused virtues.
There are two ways that Jesus’ life is available to us: (1) through the sacraments and (2) in his life story given to us in the Scriptures. Learning and meditating on his life story in the Bible will also nurture the supernatural virtue of Faith, Hope, and Charity while at the same time those infused virtues enable us to grasp the spiritual truth of the Scriptures. Through the grace of baptism and the loving care and teaching of the Church we have entered quite literally into Jesus’ life story. And what makes our salvation and our destiny a reality is our participation in the humanity of Jesus which is to say our participation in God’s human nature. If Jesus is not truly God and truly man then we are not saved and our destiny is to shuttle out of this mortal life into oblivion. It all depends on who the baby is that was born on December 25 some two thousand years ago.
There were heresies in the early years of the Church and each heresy, if it were true, would mean that all existence would end in oblivion. For example, there was a group in the lettuce years of the Church called Ebionites. Ebionites was a group of Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but he was entirely human and not God. Not at all. The Ebionites celebrated the Holy Communion only with water because wine was generally taken to be representative of the divine nature and water the human nature. If one is baptized into an ebionite Jesus there is no infusion of grace because there is no divine nature to provide the Heavenly virtues. Even if the ebionite Jesus were absolutely perfected human nature there is nothing to be infused into our life — only more of the same. And that is transfusion not infusion and that means — no new birth, no real grace, no destiny as offspring of God — nothing beyond the gravitational pull of this empirical world.
On the other hand there was another group called the Apollinarians or Monophysites and they believed that Jesus was not truly, fully human because the Divine nature of God would have simply swallowed it up, overwhelmed, and eliminated anything like the full humanity of our Lord and all that was essentially left of his human nature was his human body of flesh. Thus the Godhead was merely clothed in flesh, but his was not a full human nature. The problem with being baptized into an apollinarian Christ is that our human nature has been destroyed, not saved.
You see how the Apollinarians fail in understanding Jesus’ true nature and thus fail in understanding our destiny. If the Apollinarians were right that there is no true humanity in Jesus and only his human body is raised, then only our bodies can be saved and the rest of our existence, our minds, our wills, our emotional life for example, will fall into oblivion. But that is not true: we participate in the divine life of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, naturally, because he is flesh of our flesh, and he has a human mind as well as true human emotions and a true human will.
As I have said before the life story of Jesus the Messiah enfolds the life story of single human being who has ever existed or every will exist and that inclusion in Jesus’ life story bestows ultimate meaning upon each person, as well as bestowing ultimate meaning to whole of humanity. But Baptism not only enfolds our live together into Jesus’ life story — baptism bestows the necessary grace to appropriate his life story so that we may existentially make his story our story. Your narrative has become part of God’s narrative. Your autobiography has been assumed into Jesus’ autobiography and we are responsible and equipped to appropriate his virtues and to transform our many stories into one great love story that we offer up to the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And it all depends upon the true identity of the baby born on December 25 in Bethlehem some two-thousand years ago.