What does it mean to be a son or daughter of God? Does it mean to be a human person, created in God’s image? Yes, and so every one of us is a son or daughter of God, a reflection of God, as any child is a reflection of his or her parents.
But what kind of relationship is involved in being a son or daughter of God? The answer lies within God.
In the Trinity of persons that God is, there is Father, Son and Spirit. In the Spirit of the Father’s love, the Son receives all that he is from the Father and in the same Spirit he gives back to the Father all that he is. The second person of the Trinity is the relationship of sonship to Father.
That, of course, is hidden within God. But in his becoming a human being, the Son has revealed what being a son or daughter of God looks like in human form.
Since we humans grow and mature over time, the Son-made-human, Jesus of Nazareth, grew and matured in his relationship with his Father. Since we encounter suffering, anguish and pain, these, too, entered into his relationship with the Father.
As today’s second reading says, “In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and ... was made perfect” (Heb 5:7-9).
In Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with the Father to save the human race in a way that did not involve the agony of crucifixion. Being human, he pleaded with all his heart, “with loud cries and tears” — perhaps one of the most shocking statements in the Bible.
Yet Jesus trusted that what God willed for him was better than anything that he, from his human perspective, could want. In that way he learned sonship; as a man, he became perfect as God’s Son.
And he “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:9). If we join him, trusting that the Father’s will for us is good, whatever the sorrow and suffering he leads us through, we will experience what it means to be God’s sons and daughters.