The first words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament were said to Mary and Joseph, after they found Him in the Temple conversing with the EldersL “Why were you searching for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49). His last words were: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit” (Lk 23:46). The whole of the New Testament is a revelation of the Father by His Son, Jesus Christ, through His words and actions. But, over and above that, we must understand the importance and centrality of the Son’s relationship with the Father.
THE FATHER REVEALED IN ESSENCE
“Certainly the paternal goodness of God reaches each and every human being…(cf. Mt 5:45; Lk 6:35). His mercy is abundant and universal (cf. Mt 6:14-15; Lk 11:4), especially toward the afflicted and lost… His paternal solicitude is boundless (cf. Lk 12:16-32; Mt 6:25-33), hence His children should live in peace and joy (cf. Mt 6:8; Lk 10:41, 12-24, 30). The abundance of divine paternal benevolence encourages His children to live as the Father lives: “to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), accomplishing His will (cf. 7: 21-27) in all sincerity (cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18), imitating His goodness and mercy (cf. Mt 5:7, Lk 6:36), pardoning others their faults (cf Mt 5:23), promoting a civilization of reconciliation and love” (cf Mt 5:44; Lk 6:35; O’Callaghan, P. 1996. In praise of His glory: The Fatherhood of God, Christ’s own perspective. In Preparing for theYear 2000).
“But the radical quality of the New Testament’s turnabout as regards the paternity of God, is not to be found, as it were, in mere reinforcement of the fatherly traits of the divinity. God is not considered as a Father in the New Testament simply because He acts in an evermore paternal way towards creatures, developing His qualities of fatherhood more or less in the same way humans do… The point is that God, in His most inner essence, is and always was Father, insofar as He is and always engendered a Son” (ibid.).
To help the People of God prepare for the great Jubilee of 2000, Bl. John Paul II gave us the encyclical As the Third Millennium Draws Near (Nov. 10, 1994). In it he dedicated the years 1997 to 1999 to the three Persons of the Holy Trinity, reserving the last year for God the Father.
Eighteen years have elapsed since this encyclical was penned and perhaps each one of us, looking within our own hearts, feels a disconnect from those days of expectation. Perhaps just like the Y2K hype turned out to be “nothing,” the spiritual readiness and fervor of those days of looking forward to the Great Jubilee has all but completely evaporated from our hearts. This, of course, is the complete antithesis of the purpose of both the encyclical and the Great Jubilee that followed. Thus focusing on God the Father, let us take another look at the said encyclical, this time from within the perspective of the time lapse that has occurred since it was written. For many reasons, it should have even more meaning for us today.
“As the third millennium of the new era draws near, our thoughts turn spontaneously to the words of the Apostle Paul, ‘When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman’ (Gal. 4:4). The fullness of time coincides with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, of the Son who is of one being with the Father, and with the mystery of the Redemption of the world. In this passage, Saint Paul emphasizes that the Son of God was born of woman, born under the Law, so that they might receive adoption as sons and daughters. And he adds, ‘Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying ‘Abba! Father!’ His conclusion is truly comforting: ‘So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir'” (Gal. 4:6-7; Preparing for theYear 2000, Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1996).
“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are….Beloved we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:1-2)
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Messiah is a child of God; and whoever loves a father loves his child also. This is how we know that we are God’s children: it is by loving God and obeying his commands. For our love for God means that we obey his commands. And his commands are not too hard for us, because every child of God is able to defeat the world. And we win the victory over the world by means of our faith. Who can defeat the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is the one who came with the water of his baptism and the blood of his death. He came not only with the water, but with both the water and the blood. And the Spirit himself testifies that this is true, because the Spirit is truth” (1 Jn 5:1-6).
You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us. O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You. Amen
“Father — with this word I express my certainty that someone is there who hears me, who never leaves me alone, who is always present.”
“I express my certainty that God, despite the infinite difference between Him and me, is such that I can speak to Him, may even address Him familiarly as “thou” (German du). His greatness does not overwhelm me, does not reject me as insignificant and unimportant.”
“Certainly I am subject to Him as a child is subject to his father, yet there is such a fundamental similarity and likeness between Him and me, yes, I am so important to Him, I belong so closely to Him, that I can rightly address Him as ‘Father.’ My being born is not a mistake, then, but a grace. It is good to live even though I do not always perceive it. I am wanted; not a child of chance or necessity, but of choice and freedom.”
“Therefore I shall also have a purpose in life; there will always be a meaning for me, a task designed just for me, there is a conception of me that I can seek and find and fulfill. When the school of life becomes unbearably hard, when I would like to cry out as Job did, as the psalmist did — then I can transform this cry into the word ‘Father’ and the cry will gradually become a word, a reminder to trust, because from the Father’s perspective it is clear that my distress, yes, my agony, is part of the greater love for which I give thanks” (In Ratzinger, J. 1992. Co-workers of the truth: Meditations for every day of the year).
“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are childern of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:15-17).
“He shall cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation” (Ps 89:26).
“…and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18).
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 Jn 3:1).
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 5:16).
“Following the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and paying close attention to the special needs of our times, I devoted the encyclical Redemptor Hominis to the truth about man, a truth that is revealed to us in its fullness and depth in Christ. A no less important need, in these critical and difficult times, impels me to draw attention once again in Christ to the countenance of the ‘Father of mercies and God of all comfort’ (2 Cor 1:3). We read in the constitution Gaudium et Spes, ‘Christ the new Adam . . . fully reveals man to himself and brings to light this lofty calling . . . [and does it] in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love’ (Pastoral constitution of the Church in the modern world). The words I have quoted are clear testimony to the fact that man cannot be manifested in the full dignity of his nature without reference . . . to God. Man and man’s lofty calling are revealed in Christ, through the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love” (John Paul II, Dives in misericordia).
“Behold I will gather them all together…and will cause them to dwell securely. And they shall be my people and I will be their God. And I will give them one heart and one way… that it may be well with them and with their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them and will not cease to do them good…I will rejoice over them, when I shall do them good… with all my heart and with all my soul.” (Jer 32:37-41).