In Baptism, we share in God's nature

July 27, 2015

From the beginning of his encyclical The Light of Faith, Pope Francis emphasized that faith is more than an intellectual act; it is an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.

That encounter, we learned, is a journey in which we grow, not only in knowledge, but in union with Christ. Moreover, it is a communal journey, not simply our own private trip. We journey in the Church.

In the section we examine in this article (LF40-49), the pope says through Baptism, we become "sharers in the divine nature" (LF42). Our nature is no longer simply human, but also divine.

This is a breath-taking assertion. At first glance, it might seem to be self-idolatry. But it is not I who initiate this process; it is God's gift through the Holy Spirit.

One could say that the pope tells us a secret: "The core of all being, the inmost secret of all reality, is the divine communion" (LF45). Not only that, but with Christ's final return in glory, we will fully share in that divine communion.

"This God of communion . . . is capable of embracing all of human history and drawing it into the dynamic unity of the Godhead. . . . The believer who professes his or her faith is taken up, as it were, into the truth being professed" (LF45).

As sharers in the divine nature, we are embraced by God's mercy and then bring that mercy to others.

As sharers in the divine nature, we are embraced by God's mercy and then bring that mercy to others.

St. Athanasius, in the fourth century, was the first to express this idea clearly. He wrote, "God became human so that we might become divine."

St. Cyril, one of Athanasius' successors as bishop of Alexandria in Egypt, developed the idea, known as divinization, much further. Cyril described Adam as receiving the Spirit when God breathed into his nostrils (Genesis 2.7), but losing that original participation in divine life through sin.

For Cyril, the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit are one mission. They aim to restore the divine image in humanity by restoring us to life in the Trinity.

The inauguration of humanity into the divine life begins with Christ's baptism in the Jordan and is fulfilled when Jesus gives us the Spirit and ascends bodily into heaven. The Spirit's dwelling within us through Baptism and Christ's physical presence in the Eucharist divinize the whole person. They also unite baptized persons with each other in one body.


This pattern is reflected in Pope Francis' The Light of Faith. The sacraments enable us to share in divine life, and they initiate us into "a network of communitarian relationships" (LF40). Through the material elements of the water of Baptism and the bread and wine of the Eucharist, we share in a new life that is more than matter.

Along with the sacraments, the pope emphasizes the roles represented by the three other sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the profession of faith, the moral life and the life of prayer – in forming us in a faith that is indivisible.


Professing the creed is not simply a matter of assenting to a list of abstract truths; it is an entering into the mystery that we profess.

In praying the Lord's Prayer, we share in Christ's spiritual experience and see God and reality through his eyes.

In following the Ten Commandments, we are not simply obeying negative rules. Rather, the commandments provide "concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others" (LF46).


Faith is a unity, but it is not a unity which destroys our freedom. It is the unity of a living body, a unity in which each aspect is connected with all the others. When one aspect of faith is denied, then the whole faith is distorted.

To be truly free means to be integrated, integrated in oneself, integrated with others and integrated with God.

It is the lack of this integration in our world today that short circuits our freedom, leaving us scattered, even lost. Wholeness brings us freedom and fullness of life. Wholeness comes when we live with integrity, an integrity that reaches its highest peak when we accept God's offer to share his nature and his life.