The Good Father

How do we know about the Most Holy Trinity? Humanity learned of the it late in history, but the Trinity existed before the universe began. In retrospect, Christians can read the Old Testament and see the truth of the one true God being one God in three Divine Persons hinted at, but this eternal reality was only clearly revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

Some people, past and present, have claimed that Jesus was not divine – that he was just a man, or an angel, or something else more exulted than us but less than God. But this is not what the Early Church believed. Prologue of St. John’s Gospel proclaims: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh.” (That’s Jesus Christ.) And when St. Thomas sees Jesus resurrected and exclaims: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus does not correct him for idolatry, because Jesus is truly God.

Others, past and present, have held that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just one person, God, who manifests himself in different modes, like an actor who puts on masks to play different parts. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” If Jesus and the Father are the same person, then who is Jesus talking to? The Father and the Son are distinct persons who know and love each other.

Others people have said, simplifying the mystery, that the three persons of the Trinity are three Gods. But God had instilled Monotheism, the belief that there is only one God, deeply into his Jewish people: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” And the earliest Christians, all of them Jews, believed this as well. For example, in his New Testament letter, St. James writes, “You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.” The oneness of God is treated as a given, while at the same time the Church confessed that “Jesus Christ (the Son of God) is Lord.” Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” and “whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

This year, Holy Trinity Sunday lands upon Father’s Day weekend. God the Father is the origin and paragon of fatherhood. So let’s explore what Jesus reveals to us about God the Father and what fathers are called to be.

The Good Father has Authority, but is he not Unapproachable
In the Garden, Jesus prayed, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” Jesus submits to his “Abba, Father’s” plan. And his use of the word “Abba” is a big deal. As St. John Paul the Great observed, “An Israelite would not have used [“Abba” to address God] even in prayer. Only one who regarded himself as Son of God in the proper sense of the word could have spoken thus of him and to him as Father – Abba, or my Father, Daddy, Papa!” We are encouraged by Scripture and the Holy Spirit to be this familiar with the Father as well, calling God our “Abba” too.

The Good Father Listens
Outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me…” God always hears our words to him; be they words of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, or Supplication, or just our telling him about our day.

The Good Father Cares and Provides
Jesus said, “The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.” “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Though when we ask for something he may answer with a “not yet,” or by fulfilling our longing in a better way than we had thought of, the Father always cares, listens, and provides.

The Good Father Encourages
At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, the Father declared from Heaven, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And on Mt. Tabor, at Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Father spoke from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Imagine how it must have felt for Jesus to hear his Father profess his love for him and pleasure in him. Our words are powerful for one another. Let us strive, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to make our compliments and praises outnumber our criticisms and complaints.

The Good Father Teaches through his Word and Example
Jesus said, “the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.” “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” The influence a father can have is reflected by a large, 1990’s Swiss study which found that the religious practice of a father is what most determines the future attendance of his children at church. It found that if a father is non-practicing and the mother is a regular churchgoer, only 2% of their children will go on to become regular worshipers while over 60% of such children will be lost completely to the church. However, if the father is a regular churchgoer while the mother is non-practicing, 44% of these children grow up to become regular churchgoers too – more than twenty-fold impact! Such is the importance and influence of a father’s example.

And finally, the Good Father Loves his Child’s Mother
At the Visitation, filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth declared to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women,” and Mary rejoiced, “From this day all generations will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” It has been rightly said that the best way for a father to love his children is to dearly love their mother.

Some of us have had very good dad, while for some of us our fathers were very far from perfect. There is a cultural crisis with fatherhood today; we see its effects in our country’s schools and in our country’s prisons. Gentlemen, take our heavenly Father as your model. And if you’re ever unsure of how to resemble our Father, look at His son, for St. Paul calls him “the image of the invisible God.” May God bless all our fathers, living or passed on, and may God help all of us here who are fathers to become better ones.

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