Contemporary men and women have difficulty experiencing the great consolation of the word father immediately, since the experience of father is in many cases either completely absent or is obscured by inadequate examples of fatherhood.
We must therefore let Jesus teach us what father really means. In Jesus’ discourses, the Father appears as the source of all good, as the measure of the rectitude (perfection) of man. ‘But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…’ (Mat ). The love that endures to the end (Jn 13:1), which the Lord fulfilled on the Cross in praying for his enemies, shows us the essence of the Father. He is this love. Because Jesus brings it to completion, he is entirely ‘Son’, and he invites us to become ‘sons’ according to this criterion.
1, 136 Nazareth
Reflection – Well, this is a subject dear to my heart. In fact, I’ve just written a book about it, Going Home, which explores the nature of God the Father and his infinite tenderness and love from the perspective of the parable of the Prodigal Son. When we find out just who and what this ‘Father’ is, at least a little bit, so many things fall into place, become much easier, make so much more sense. When we have very little or no sense of the Father’s love, Christian faith and indeed life in general is a dark heavy sad thing.
I know this, actually, because I have been one of those contemporary men for whom the word father held little consolation. Without going into a big personal testimony that would be inappropriate in this public setting, I did not have the best of relationships with my own father, and consequently the word for me was not associated with very positive associations.
It was Jesus who showed me the true face of fatherhood. Specifically, he told me that he did nothing that he did not see his Father in heaven doing (John ). So everything Jesus does in the Gospels reveals to us the Father’s heart. Healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, forgiving sinners, teaching, proclaiming, and loving to the very end of love—all of this is who God the Father is and what He does continually. Even Jesus’ death on the Cross is ‘what he sees his Father doing’. God the Father does not suffer and die on the Cross with Jesus—that is a heresy that has been long condemned. But Jesus’ death is a revelation that there is no limit, no boundaries to God’s love, to what the Father wills to do to save his errant children. Love poured out to the last drop of love—but because God is infinite, there is no last drop. Love poured out eternally, perfectly, utterly, right now, on you, on me, on the whole world: God the Father.
When we know this, we can sort of relax inwardly. We are called into this same love and same outpouring of energy and self, and so our lives may be very busy and hard-working, but inwardly we can sort of collapse into God. A child throwing himself onto his Father, knowing that he will be caught and held by an assured strength, a virile tenderness, Someone he can totally trust—this is us.
So, like I say this is all very dear to my heart, and if you want to read more about my thoughts on the matter, buy my book. If you’re in the
area, come to my book launch on November 14 at at St. Patrick’s Basilica. Ottawa