Ordinary Time - Week 31a

The Paternity of God

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples about the vanity of the Pharisees: They do all their deeds to be seen by men, they love the place of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplaces, and being called rabbi by men. But there is only one Teacher and Doctor who is Christ. And there is only one Father, who is in heaven. All wisdom springs from Christ. He is the Teacher who saves, sanctifies and guides, who lives, who speaks, rouses, moves, redresses, judges, forgives, and goes with us day by day on the path of history, the Teacher who comes and will come in glory. The teaching of the Church is the teaching of Christ. Her teachers are to be measured according to the standard of the Lord.

In like manner, we say that there is one heavenly Father who is the source of all paternity in heaven and on earth. God enjoys the fulness of paternity. Earthly fathers participate in this paternity when they contribute to new life. Those people who foster faith in others also partake in this paternity. St Paul writes to the first Christians at Corinth as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, to be imitators of me. Those believers knew quite well that in their emulation of Paul they would be imitators of Christ. The Apostle was a faithful reflection of the spirit of the Master and of God's loving concern for them.

The word 'Father' can be used in a meaningful way not only to signify physical paternity but also spiritual paternity. Therefore the Roman Pontiff is justly known as 'the common Father of all Christians'. Whenever we honour our physical parents or our spiritual parents, then we are giving honour and glory to God. Earthly fathers can reflect the divine paternity. So one very good way to live divine filiation is to honour our earthly parents.

St Paul wrote to the Christians of Galatia with all the tenderness of a father and a mother. He knew of the difficulties they were experiencing in their new-found faith. Paul suffered at his inability to look after these believers who lived so far away: My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you! He compares them to the child in a mother's womb. The Apostle felt a paternal responsibility for his children in need. The Church teaches us that the people who foster our faith through preaching and Baptism should also be seen as parents. We participate in the spiritual paternity of the many Christians whom we have helped to find Christ. Sometimes this formation entails suffering and fatigue. This paternity increases to the degree of one's generosity. God manifests his fatherhood to Christians like a teacher who instructs not only his disciples but whoever is capable of understanding him. This spiritual paternity is an important part of the earthly reward which God grants to those who respond to a divine vocation. He is generous. He returns a hundredfold; and this is true even of children. Many deprive themselves of children for the sake of his glory, and they have thousands of children of their spirit - children, as we are children of our Father in heaven.