To Be A Father
“Our Father who art in heaven…”
When Jesus said, “when you pray say, Our Father” the colossal impact of this is lost on the modern ear. For one, we are accustomed to thinking about our authorities in ordinary ways. Today, you can expect three things: death, taxes, and Saturday Night Live mocking a dignitary. We have lost our role models because we refuse the vantage of “looking up”. The point is that thinking about something great in a familial way is no-big-deal to the “I-already-saw-that-on-my-phone” cult. One of the great co-casualties of a loss of wonder is the “loss of the greatness of condescension”–and this is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. That a man stands unmoved in a delivery room, evening tide, or the shadow of a snowy peak–instead enraptured by the possibility of a red bird’s ability to perchance conquer sticks and ice that protect round green objects with faces–is beyond me. It is a true sign that a culture has lost its way.
On second and more so, we do not get the depth in which the words “Our Father” radically changed the way the original hearers thought about God. The Shema (Duet 6:4) was a part of Jewish prayer–a part of their very psyche, yet this simple acknowledgement of the unicity and Lordship of God–however fundamental it was to the building of the culture of Christianity–did not approximate the intimacy of calling God father. That–calling God “father”–was scandalous and far too presumptive.
Thirdly, since the throwing off of the Catholic religion as that which underpins the good society, man has lost the word’s religious context. At one time, all of Western society might think fondly of hearing a priest addressed as father. This meant that man had a soul, was meant for heaven, and that God had provided a steward for such a journey. Now the word conjures many of the opposite sentiments–sadly sometimes for the fault of a few wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Nevertheless, when God revealed himself as Father, He simultaneously brought Himself close to us and lifted us up. He raised the ante on what it means to be a Father because now it will be a recourse for the way in which a child discovers who God is. I shutter at that notion. We play heroes on television, villains at the local theatre, but apparently we play God in real life. As a father, I have the responsibility of being an ambassador of the reality of God to my children. I will literally shape their view on who God is. Kryie Eleison!
Then again, being an ambassador for God is a part of all of our vocations. As a father, I may bare the responsibility of revealing God to my children, but all of us bare the responsibility of showing the love of God to the world. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta–like a thousand saints before her–reminded us that our hands will be the only “hands of God” that anyone will ever see. Truly, we are the Body of Christ. Anyone who thinks that Christianity is chauvinistic simply ignores this edict, the thousands of female Saints in her history, and The Woman we call Theotokos. For it was a woman who first “showed us” God, if but in a humble manger, and it is women every day–in the care of children–who raise the world.
But fathers…to be a father. I did not forget you, but our world has. God has not. The Church still says, “Our Father” and our priests are still called “father” and the pope is still the “Holy Father”. Even our evangelical friends call Abraham “father”. You are important. Rise to the challenge of showing the world that children are worth it, that you can do it, and by God’s grace show a new generation the radical power of fatherhood. On that note, if you are a father and have not heard about All Pro Dad, check it out. It is a support group for dads, where dads can get together and encourage each other. Maybe you could start a group at your parish.
Either way, step up and be the father God’s called you to be. Show your children The Father.
Because they are waiting…