Sunday, March 20, 2011
Blog # 138 FATHER 3
Blog # 138 FATHER 3 In Blog # 136 I tried to show our Catholic theology and practice leaves no doubt about the fact we recognize and worship one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Only God the single Creator of all other realities deserves our total unconditional love. Blog # 136 was to be a proclamation of the truth about how we as Catholics acknowledge and relate to God the unique Creator of all that exists. In Blog # 137 , in the light of Matthew 23:9 in which Jesus tells us not to call any man on earth father I wanted to recognize and respond to the problem our practice of referring to a priest as Father creates for many of our fellow Christians outside the Catholic Church. Blog # 136 was to show the practice if interpreted correctly and with good will is not in contradiction to our genuine total constant unconditional love of God. Blog # 137 goes further than merely justifying the practice with reason and common sense. Making reference to a man as father was done by holy men in the Bible, as in Romans 4: 11,12 the author refers to Abraham as the father of the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised, and as James in 2:21 asks "Was not our father Abraham justified by his works...? Though these references were made to someone living in the time before Jesus they were made in the references I have given by authors living in our time after Jesus and I think we can presume as authors of the written word of God in the Bible they were aware of what Jesus said about calling anyone on earth our father. Blog # 138 intends to take the Catholic practice further than its mere justification, in other words as merely something that is not sinful or not contrary to God's will. I want to identify the Catholic practice when properly understood as something with positive value, something that helps us rather than hinders us in our quest to discover and live out the Gospel message Jesus brought to earth for all people. The key to understanding and accomplishing this task is the fact we believe the supernatural gift of new birth spoken of by Jesus in His conversation with Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of John's Gospel is given to us individually in the Sacrament of Baptism. Secondly we believe that in a way similar to the way our natural biological fathers can be seen as instruments fulfilling God's plan for bringing natural life so the minister of the Sacrament of Baptism can be seen as an instrument fulfilling God's plan for bringing supernatural life. Thirdly an ordained priest is the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Baptism. With these three considerations in mind and in the light of Paul's identifying himself as begetting those who came to believe in Jesus by faith through his preaching, we can imagine a custom growing up of referring to the ordinary minister of Baptism as father. I do not know of this practice ever being the object of a law in the Church as for example our laws on fasting and abstinence from meat on Fridays. In the practical order in a way a wedding ring can serve as a reminder of a person's permanent love and commitment to husband or wife so the practice of continuing to refer to all priests as fathers can serve to remind us of our faith and Baptismal sharing in the gift of new life in Jesus, certainly a blessing and a very valuable experience.