BITE-SIZE THEOLOGY (37) – Just what kind of a father is God?

– Rev José Mario O Mandía

Up to this point, we have talked about the divine attributes that our reason is able to discover. God, however, exceeds our reason, and there are important things about Himself that He has to reveal to us if we are to know them. One of these is His Fatherhood.

In the Old Testament, God’s love for his creatures is compared to a mother’s care. “But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:14-16).

A moving passage that describes God’s fatherly care for men is found in Jeremiah. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, says the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

When we come to the New Testament, Jesus reveals to us that God is our Father, and that is how we should address him: “Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9).

By teaching us this prayer, Jesus also teaches us another important fact: “the Lord’s Prayer reveals us to ourselves at the same time that it reveals the Father to us” (CCC 2783). It tells us that we are not mere creatures, but children of God.

God “has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other ‘Christs’” (CCC 2782).

And what kind of a father is He? He is all-wise and all-knowing, He is all-good and all-loving, and He is all-powerful.

(1) He knows everything about each one of us: “your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7). So when He plans something for us, He foresees everything, He doesn’t miss a single detail. What we need to do is ask Him each single day what His plans are.

(2) His overflowing goodness and love only wants the best for us, just like any father or mother on earth wants the best for their children. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11) What to do, then? “Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7).

(3) His infinite power guarantees that whatever He has planned out will be fulfilled, provided we freely accept and embrace His plans. The most powerful prayer is “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10).

What is required of us as children?

“The free gift of adoption requires on our part continual conversion and new life. Praying to our Father should develop in us two fundamental dispositions:

First, the desire to become like him: though created in his image, we are restored to his likeness by grace; and we must respond to this grace.

“‘We must remember . . . and know that when we call God ‘our Father’ we ought to behave as sons of God’ (St Cyprian).

“‘You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father’s kindness’ (St John Chrysostom).

“‘We must contemplate the beauty of the Father without ceasing and adorn our own souls accordingly’ (St Gregory of Nyssa).” (CCC 2784)

Second, a humble and trusting heart that enables us ‘to turn and become like children’ (Matthew 18:3): for it is to ‘little children’ that the Father is revealed (cf Matthew 11:25)” (CCC 2785).

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