With those joyful moments there are also the sobering reminders. Our adoption coordinator has been in Uganda for the last few days and just posted a heartrending piece on her initial impressions. There are few words that can sum the need.
In all of this I’ve been thinking a lot about adoption in the broad sense, not just our particular case. My mind always starts with the words from St. James’ letter: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James didn’t pull that sentiment out of the air. He pulled it right out of the heart of God. It’s nearly impossible to read the scriptures and miss God’s concern for the fatherless. Over and again—in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and elsewhere—God says that he requires mercy and justice for the fatherless. God, who we know as Father, shows special care and intense concern for orphans.
As with James’ letter, these passages usually reference widows as well, and often sojourners too, those that St. Augustine describes as “persons destitute of partnership in this world’s hope.” But these are persons not destitute of partnership in the hope of God’s kingdom.
And that’s where we come in.
From Psalm 68: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” God’s holy habitation is a reference to the Church, the people of God. When James writes about visiting orphans and widows in their affliction, he’s writing about the Church’s responsibility in doing so. With the full weight of those Old Testament passages in mind as he writes, James is saying that what identifies God (mercy and love for the destitute) should identify us. The Church is to father and protect the afflicted. And the Church is us.
Partnership requires people, and partnership in the hope of God’s kingdom requires partnership with the people of God. Are we ready for that?