Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. Each year we celebrate Father’s Day. But for the Christian, every day is Father’s Day. Why? One of the most distinctive features of our Christian faith is that we dare to call God Father. For Moslems, this is blasphemy because their relationship with Allah is akin to a Master and slave. For Jews, it is also blasphemy. Not even Abraham and Moses could call God Father. Yet, here in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us to call God Father. He himself prayed to God as Father and here he gives us permission to do the same. That is why He is known as ‘Our Father’.
So if God is our Father not just by name but by nature, what difference does that make to us? First, let’s face the problem. Many people find the idea of God as Father unhelpful on account of their negative experience of their own fathers. Some might say: ‘if God is like my father then I don’t want anything to do with him’. We must therefore let Jesus teach us what being a father really means. From the Gospel teaching on God as Father I have picked out four ways that God is Father to us in a way that trains us, mentors us and fathers us to be the best people we possibly can be.
The first thing God our Father does is accept us for who we are. Before we can do or say anything, he loves and accepts us as his children. We don’t have to be perfect to be accepted. Think of the welcome the Father gave the prodigal son and how he accepted him back. No matter how far we have strayed or what our history is, we will always be accepted back by God our Father who waits for us and longs for us to come home.
Second, just as an earthly father cares for his children, so God knows our needs and meets them. In the words of the Gospel, if we know how to give our children what is good, how much more with God! At times this is hard to believe. We ask and pray for something and don’t receive it. We lose someone close to us and ask if God really loves us then how could this happen? Yet, as Father, God is always training us to become more perfect in love and preparing us for a future of greater joy. Sometimes God says ‘No’ to our prayer because it either comes from a self-centered place or because he has a greater plan. Trusting him always involves us being tested to see if our trust is real.
Third, God is a Father who sets out clear standards of what is right and wrong, what is good for us and what is harmful. A child is having great fun with a box of matches before its father takes the matches away causing the child to become angry and cry. But the father can see the danger and the bigger picture. Doing wrong is not just breaking rules. It hurts others and ourselves. Our father trains us to become upright, honest and morally upright. Yet he respects our freedom and doesn’t control us.
Lastly, God our Father teaches us, all the time. We are always learning, sometimes from mistakes. He has the greater wisdom, always. Praying to Our Father aligns ourselves to his wisdom, to his will and to his kingdom. Being a child of God is always being a student at the university of life. Our learning is never over.
The greatest gift a father can give his children is to believe in them. Today we celebrate our faith in a God we dare to call Father. He is a Father by name and nature who believes in us, accepts us, loves us, nurtures us, sets standards for us and teaches us until the day we die. Being his children is not just who we are. It’s who we become.