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Knowing God as compassionate Father

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Fr. James H. Kroeger, M.M.

LIVING MISSION

“Year of Faith” Reflections

 

CHRISTIAN creeds address God as “the Father, the almighty.” Calling God “Our Father” is a personal address, asserting his care for all creation, especially for all humanity.

God’s fatherly care for his people is already found in the Old Testament (Deut 7:6-9); however, Jesus reveals a totally new and profound meaning to addressing God as “Father.” God is called “Father” 170 times in the Gospels [Mark (4); Luke (15); Matthew (42); John (109)].

God’s fatherhood is a clear hallmark of Jesus’ life and prayer.  Frequently, Jesus prays to his Abba. He calls God “my Father” (Mt 11:26; Lk 10:21). His mission is from the Father (Jn 11:41-42).  During the last supper he addresses his Father (Jn 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25).  Jesus turned to his Abba in the crisis moments of his life: Gethsemane (Mk 14:36; Mt 26:42), Calvary (Lk 23:34). His dying words are: “Father, into your hands I commend by spirit” (Lk 23:46).

Indeed, our addressing God as “Our Father” is already an act of faith; it reflects both our relationship to God and to others. Jesus taught his disciples this prayer on different occasions. The New Testament preserves two versions—one by Matthew (6:9-13) and one by Luke (11:2-4).

Because Jesus the Lord taught this prayer to his disciples, it is known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Tertullian called it “the summary of the whole Gospel,” and Saint Thomas Aquinas said it is “the most perfect of all prayers.”

The first half of the “Our Father” expresses our faith by praising God, asking that “your kingdom come, your will be done.” The second half of the “Lord’s Prayer” consists of four petitions; we ask for the good things we all need.

When we Christians in faith express our needs to our Father, we are also committing ourselves to making our prayer requests a reality. Praying for our daily bread means doing our part in relieving hunger and deprivation in the world.  We ask forgiveness with the sincere promise to forgive others.

We also ask that we would not be led into temptation and be delivered from evil. Here we are not asking that we never be tested or tried; in fact, God allows testing as a way of determining the depth and genuineness of our faith.

Our prayer is simply asking that we be spared from being tested beyond our capacity to endure trials and tribulations. As we plead for this grace, we also commit ourselves to “bear each other’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) and remain in solidarity with others who are experiencing life’s difficult challenges.

Truly, in praying the “Our Father” we declare our faith in God as a loving Father, and we also are manifesting our commitment to readily serve our neighbors.

Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in 1980 the encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy) which is focused on “the Father of compassion and God of all consolation” (II Cor 1:3). Undoubtedly, our God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4).


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