Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday after Pentecost - 17 June AD 2012

[ Ordinary of the Mass ]
[ English Text ]
[ Latin Text ]
[Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus]

Just this past Friday we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Hear of Jesus, and in the Epistle we heard the following phrase:

I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom fatherhood in heaven and earth is named,

Some of our Protestant friends object to the idea of addressing a priest as “father.”  They base this objection on a misunderstanding of our Lord’s words in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, where our Lord is criticizing the prideful behavior of the Pharisees:

[6] And they love the first places at feasts, and the first chairs in the synagogues, [7] And salutations in the market place, and to be called by men, Rabbi. [8] But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master; and all you are brethren. [9] And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven. [10] Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, Christ.

This is another case of our Lord using the Hebrew method of emphasis by exaggeration; what we call “hyperbole” in English.  He is trying to discourage two things.  First of all, He is discouraging the need to feel self-important, and the demand for recognition that comes along with it.  Second, he is discouraging any idea that men and women can have any claim to respect that does not give yet greater respect to God Almighty.

God is our first Teacher, Master, and Father, and human beings hold these titles only by analogy to God.  God is the Father who brought all things into existence out of nothing, He is the Teacher who created all of the organization and design in the universe, and He is the Master whose will is written in the hearts of mankind and must always be obeyed.  Human beings are called by these same titles as appropriate, but always as subordinate to God.  It is God who commanded us to honor our father and mother.[2]  As Saint Paul tells us, the concept of “paternity” or “fatherhood” is named after God—when properly applied, the name “father” acknowledges the greatness of God the Father, and its use is in no way sinful.

I don’t imagine that many Protestants refuse to call their male parent “father.”  Most likely, their objection is really to the priesthood, for it offends them that God has sacramentally set aside some men and given them the power to renew the Sacrifice of the Cross in Holy Mass.  But Saint Paul, again, speaks of the concept of having a “spiritual father.”  He wrote to the Corinthians:

I admonish you as my dearest children. [15] For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.[3]

“By the Gospel, I have begotten you.”  Which is to say, “I am your spiritual father.”

For centuries, Christians have called their priests and bishops “father.”  Indeed, the title of the “Pope” comes from the Latin “Papa” which is also a title with which we might address our own father.  We also refer to the great theologians of the early Church as the “Fathers of the Church.”  Sometimes we speak of the “Doctors of the Church,” which is the same as calling them “teachers” or “rabbis.”  (The Jewish rabbi is a doctor of the old law.)  It is ironic that the Protestant who would not dream of calling his minister “father” has no scruple about calling him by the academic title “doctor.”

Of course, the secular observance today is intended to honor our human fathers—those who gave us life, and those who raised and nurtured us.  And, just as I mentioned on Mothers’ Day, we should have a similar admiration for those who came to help when our actual fathers were unable to carry out their roles: brothers, uncles, stepdads, priests, and teachers ... and probably a few intrepid ladies as well.

If you are fortunate enough to have Dad around, go and visit him today if at all possible.  At least a phone call.  And don’t forget those others who stepped in when Dad was not available.  If Dad is no longer with us, we still can offer our prayers for him and to him—the souls in Purgatory are saints of God, and who better (besides the Blessed Virgin) to intercede for us than the man who loved us so much.

Let me also urge the men of our parish to adopt a Christian attitude of fatherhood toward those whose own fathers cannot completely fulfill their role.  There are many ways to share your time and your abilities with young people in need.  Recognize too, that God gave you your size and strength and abilities so that you might protect women and children, and never that you might take advantage of them.

So, on this Fathers’ Day, be sure to visit Dad in prayer or in person—likewise those that filled in for Dad in your life.  Say a prayer for your spiritual fathers as well—and pray that God will raise up many more of them.  But, please don’t lose sight of the fact that all fatherhood is a mere analogy to the fatherhood of God, who should always be honored with our prayers and with holy behavior.

Dei via est íntegra
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