I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fatherhood of God. The Gospel last Sunday reminded us to be like children, and this Sunday we’ll hear Jesus call his disciples “children.” Halfway between those two Sundays, on Wednesday we heard the Gospel where Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, commanding them to call God “Father.”
It’s hard to deny that today we have a crisis of fatherhood. So perhaps it’s not surprising that it can be hard to relate to God as Father. The Catechism reminds us:
“Before we make our own this first exclamation of the Lord’s Prayer, we must humbly cleanse our hearts of certain false images drawn ‘from this world.’ Humility makes us recognize that ‘no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him,’ that is, ‘to little children.’ The purification of our hearts has to do with paternal or maternal images, stemming from our personal and cultural history, and influencing our relationship with God. God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (CCC 2779).
As hard as it might be for some, it is crucial that we endeavor to know God as Father. It is one thing that sets Christianity apart. God is Judge, yes. Creator, yes. But also Father. The struggle to grasp that – and truly believe it – is a vital hurdle in the life of a Christian. Do I really believe God is Father?
“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?” (Mt 7:9-11)
How often, deep down, do we doubt He wants what is best for us? How often do we not trust Him? In fact, if you read the Old and New Testaments, you’ll find that God spends most of the pages trying to convince us that He loves us. Since Eve’s decision in the Garden, we’ve doubted God. We’ve doubted His goodness, His love, and His plan for us. And he has spent every minute of every day trying to convince us otherwise. He wants what is best for us.
He is our Father. Once we convince ourselves of that, that He is our Father – our perfect, all-loving Father (no matter how imperfect and unloving our own fathers might be), we can finally accept His love and His mercy. We can have trust and confidence even in the storms. No matter how dark a situation, He knows what lies ahead. He is always working, always loving.
Understanding God as Father will change our approach to the moral life. Rather than seeing the moral life as a series of “no’s” and slavish obedience to commandments, we will see our lives fully lived for love of God. It’s not a “no” to something, it’s a yes to our Father. They are acts of love for Someone who loves us more than we can imagine.
We will see our relationships in a new light, as we see people around us not as enemies or strangers, but as brothers and sisters of the same Father. How can I hate someone- even someone who may hate me – if I see them as a son or daughter of God? Perhaps they don’t know the Father. Then I pray for them, that they may come to a knowledge of His love and goodness.
The crisis in fatherhood is deep, and the ripple effect is wide, reaching into our Church. Let us pray to the Father to continue to pour out His love in patience. Thank Him today for His constancy and mercy.