Friday, March 18, 2011
Blog # 137 FATHER 2
Blog # 137 FATHER 2 Our Catholic theology does not accept or believe in any competitor for God's glory. Our long standing custom of referring to an ordained priest as Father does not in the least put the priest in competition with the absolute worship we give to the Father in Heaven alone. Yet we do have to take Matthew 23: 9 into account. The King James version has it this way: "And call no man your father on earth; for one is your Father which is in heaven." On face value these words are certainly clear. On face value it would seem clear there is no need or even room for a question as to whether Catholics disobey the Bible in continuing our practice of referring to a priest as "Father" However in the context of the statement in Matthew, we would hardly be fair to ourselves and honest in our pursuit of the truth in the matter if we did not take note of the fact the text we are considering is immediately followed by the additional injunction of Jesus not to call anyone teacher. This seems to be commonly done without a qualm or the batting of an eye even by those who object to our practice . What is the difference? It seems to lie in the objection to our practice rather then in concern for literally carrying out the entire mandate of the Bible. Further, if what we do is wrong, the Bible itself is guilty of the same, and this cannot be true. In the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) there are more than seven hundred references to the word father. Only ten of these are in reference to Yahweh ( God). In the New Testament there are more than three hundred and fifty references to the word father. Of these only two hundred and twenty-nine are in relation to God. The rest refer to men. Samples; Rom 4: 18; Acts 7: 2; 2: 29; 4: 25; Jame 2: 21. In the early ages of the Church, before and during the time the New Testament was being composed there was no problem. Nor was there a problem as the Church moved through the centuries until on the American scene fundamentalist preachers developed it into a major issue. It is not a Biblical problem among Scripture scholars, nor is it a problem in 0ther parts of the world where the American influence has not prevailed. Certainly the Catholic Church knows the words of the Gospel with regard to Jesus' statement. We know, however, as well, the meaning of the statement. Taken out of context we would no more have taken up the custom of calling the priest Father, let alone tolerate it for centuries than we would have taken up or tolerated a custom of stealing, telling lies, murder, abortion, or gay marriages. The true meaning and value of our custom begins to show in the light of 1 Cor 4: 14 - 17. "I am writing to you in this way not to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children. Granted you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you have only one father. It was I who begot you in Christ Jesus through my preaching of the Gospel...This is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful son in the Lord. For St. Paul, who explicitly in the Bible refers to himself as a father of believers, the use of the term father in reference to himself was a blessing rather than a wedge between himself and God.This is because for him and the first Christians it was a definite reminder and proclamation of the fact a Christian believer through faith and Baptism receives through Jesus a second birth into a new life, becoming children of God and heirs with Christ of eternal life. Our use of the term for the ordinary minister of Baptism is the same. Lack of knowledge, both of the meaning of Scripture in this instance, and in the meaning of our tradition and of the reasons we retain the tradition are the root of any problem a sincere Bible-reading person might have with it. It would apparently be easy to solve the problem by doing away with the custom. But this would seem to be similar to the 'problem' some of the people at the foot of the Cross brought to Jesus when they did not realize or understand the meaning of His suffering and said: "Come down from the Cross and we will believe!" He stayed.