The issue of relationship is at the centre of the debate between Our Lord and some of the Jewish leaders. Were they not sons of Abraham? Didn’t God choose them out of all the other nations of the world and call them to be his own? The answer is both yes and no.
There are two ways to understand what it means to be someone’s child. A husband and wife can conceive a child and genetically that child is theirs; but unless that child lives under their roof and takes on their reasoning, their values, their outlook, and their approach to life, then an essential element of sonship is missing.
For many of the Jewish leaders, being a son of Abraham was a lot like the first kind of sonship. God had adopted them as his own, and that’s all there was to it. But because they didn’t try to take after their Father, they missed out on the more intimate and more satisfying aspects of being children of God. Now of course not all the Jews approached their faith like this. But some were content with simply being a descendent of Abraham, and they failed to experience the joy and freedom of being a child of God.
We can become children of God in the deepest, most powerful ways possible. We can begin to take on our Father’s habits, his likeness, and his philosophies. This is why Our Lord came in the first place. He didn’t come just to do away with sin. He came to make us children of God (John 1:12-13). As the Catechism teaches us: “Becoming a disciple of Jesus means accepting the invitation to belong to God’s family, to live in conformity with his way of life” (CCC 2233).
Every day is filled with opportunities to take on the family resemblance. It’s not always easy, but neither is it all that difficult. We can refuse to join in gossip. We can forgive someone who has hurt us. We can lend a helping hand, or perform anonymous acts of service. As often as we do these things, and more, we are showing the whole world that we have accepted the privilege of being members of God’s family.