Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Blog # 242 God Our Father
Blog # 242 God Our Father Many years ago on the occasion of the death of one of the members of the parish where I was serving as Pastor, a new and impressive insight came to me as I stood alone in the church at the side of the open casket. The people who attended the wake service all had left and I was waiting for the funeral director to return to close the casket in preparation for the Mass of the Resurrection the following morning and then to lock the church for the night. I can't remember when it was that I stopped thinking specifically of that particular insight but it was a good number of years ago. Then recently on the occasion of another funeral it came to me again. Both funerals were of a father of a family. One of the men was very wealthy. One of them was poor. Originally I came across the insight in a philosophy class back in the seminary when we were studying the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, a holy and learned theologian and philosopher back in the thirteenth Century. So the insight itself was not original with me. However I cannot remember anyone ever having applied it at a funeral the way it occurred to me to do on the occasion of those two funerals of which I am writing . I can't remember how the insight went in Latin, but in English it comes out like this: A son is never debtor to his father. As in the case of many theological and philosophical statements of truth, we may have to reflect a bit about them and ask a question or two in order to come away with the fundamental or complete meaning of what has been said. So here, to discover or interpret the full meaning of the expression at hand or to try to present it in a more simple form, it would not be correct to say : a father will never owe his son a dime. It does not say a father cannot enter into a contract with a son who is in the construction business or a son may never send his father a legitimate bill for the price of a retirement home he is building for his father. At its root level the insight takes its meaning from the fact that all the son has ever had, has now, or will have in the future would not be his unless the father gave it to him. I am not talking primarily about lolly pops when the boy was three, a basket ball backstop out in front of the garage, a job in the father's automobile factory, clothing, food, or money. I am thinking deeper than that. My friend Patrick was a red-headed boy. My friend Patrick's father was red-headed when he was young. On a yet deeper level there is even more the father gives a son. Without the father the son would have nothing. Everything the son can call his own can eventually be traced to its origin in the father. In a similar way we recognize the basic ongoing ownership of a copy rite by an author of a book or the ownership of a patent registered by its inventor with the Federal Government in Washington. Back to the funerals with which we began, the wealthy father had given more material gifts than the poor one , but both of them gave the gift of fatherhood, the unique gift that is identified and stands as the ORIGIN of a son or daughter's very existence. If we did not exist we would have to be nothing. It is as simple and profound as that. Were we to understand the meaning of what I am claiming here we would not only be permitted but compelled to say that God does not exist. To exist is to be identified in a limited experience of the verb to be. Whatever exists necessarily exists as someone or something, here or there, now or then, capable of being labeled or limited, which is impossible with God. All of this of course leads logically to the conclusion there is but one God and we cannot know God except in our limited human way by faith. When Jesus gave the command forbidding us to call anyone on earth our father He was proclaiming the truth of our faith that proclaims the uniqueness of God; there is nor can there be another. The fatherhood we know in reference to a human family is limited by the number of children begotten by the father of the family. The Fatherhood of God is universal. God is the Father of all who exist. Jesus claimed to be divine, one with God, equal to God. "If you knew me, you would know the Father too. ( Jn 8: 19; 14: 7). "The Father and I are one. (Jn 10: 30). 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father". ( Jn 14: 9). His strongest argument for authorizing His claim to divinity was when on one occasion when He was arguing with the Pharisees He said of Himself : before Abraham came to be, I AM . (Jn 8: 58). There are no limits to that statement, not here, there, now or then, but always, everywhere, I AM. Some practical conclusions I have drawn out of all that went into this blog are these: God and God alone deserves our unconditional trust and total love; God is present in all of creation, willing it to be, and closer to all human creatures than any human person could ever be; God knows and loves each of us currently and uniquely throughout our lives; how thankful we should be to Jesus for having revealed Yahweh the unimaginable eternal God to us in a term we can understand, and then to teach us to address God as Our Father!