There is only one Father and He is in heaven - Father’s Day, 2016

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > There is only one Father and He is in heaven - Father’s Day, 2016

 

There is a teaching of Jesus that I am sure many of us find difficult to understand. In Mt 23:9 Jesus says, "Call no one on earth your father". Call no one on earth your father.

Here we are celebrating Father’s Day. Today we celebrate the man we call "dad". Today we honour this man and indeed honour fatherhood and its contribution to our lives and the life of our society.

What are we to make of the words of our Lord: "Call no one on earth your father"?

Jesus added to the text I am referring to, "For you have only one Father who is in heaven". There is only one Father. There is only one paradigm of fatherhood. There is only One who manifests what fatherhood is. To know the true and full nature of fatherhood we must turn to God Himself.

God is and is to be the measure of all things, and not man. We are being reminded that all earthly reality is a reflection of God who created all things. God is the point of reference. We do not simply construct our own understanding of things without reference to God Himself. There is a very important message here: all things find their true and ultimate meaning in God. The Book of Genesis makes a most important statement when speaking about the creation of humanity: we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our humanity is a reflection of the nature of God. Thus, fatherhood as we know it in the natural order is a reflection of the one fatherhood found in God Himself.

We are aware that Jesus revealed God as Father. Not that this was unknown from the Old Testament, but Jesus brought a new meaning and new focus to the importance to seeing God as Father. In speaking of God the word “father” was constantly on his lips. Many, many times he spoke of God as his father, and he boldly proclaimed that all who believe in him will be adopted as sons and daughters of God. The revelation of this relationship was confirmed at his baptism in the Jordan and again on the Mount of the Transfiguration when a voice from heaven declared, "You are my beloved Son". This was indeed the nature of the relationship that Jesus so intimately knew, and which meant everything to him.

It is one of the most important revelations in Christianity. God is Father. God is not a distant figure to be feared and constantly placated. God is not a capricious being to be cajoled. God is not a cruel tyrant demanding even human sacrifice.

God is father – giver of life, motivated by love, concerned for our wellbeing, a source of guiding wisdom, one who will where necessary correct and discipline for our good, a steady and unchanging presence, one who is ready to forgive and to receive back, one who encourages and  who will never abandon us no matter how much we reject him.

He is father. He is sees each of us as son or daughter. We are beloved in his sight. What an extraordinary revelation about the nature of God!

Clearly for Jesus himself this relationship counted more than anything else. He saw his relationship with his Father as his constant reference point. He said, "I have not come to do my own will, but to do the will of my Father".

With this in mind it is understandable that Jesus would teach that there is only one final and perfect expression of fatherhood and that is found in God the Father. All other fatherhood is derivative of this one complete nature.

Every father in a family here today is a reflection of the fatherhood of God. The nature of God’s fatherhood is the model and inspiration for every father. Each father here today can pray – “Father in heaven, teach me to be a father as you are father”.

And we can ask: what are some of the characteristics of the fatherhood which are found in God? There are some we can briefly consider.

The first is that fatherhood of God is lived in communion. God is a trinity of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Fatherhood only makes sense within relationships. Fatherhood in not some right, some position of authority, some title to be respected. It is a relational word. Fatherhood is based in the quality of relationships within the family. Father is the way I relate. It is the way I engage with my family. Ultimately, as God is love, fatherhood is about love.

Fatherhood fits into the Trinitarian reality of marriage - father, mother and child. Family itself reflects the communion of persons in God himself. Father has identity and meaning in relation to mother and child.

Secondly, fatherhood is creative for God is Creator. A father is deeply aware that he has been instrumental in the generation of new life. The child has come from him in the union with his wife. Fatherhood is about the nourishment of human life. It is the engagement in the life of the child. And it never ceases. A father is always a father. He can never cease to be a father. The child never becomes an orphan.

Thirdly a father guides his children. Just as Jesus looked to his Father as a steady reference point, so too a child can look to his or her father as a key point of reference in their growth and in the decisions they make in life. Thus a father is one who knows that wisdom is a most important virtue to possess so that they can give wise guidance to their children. And so a father is available for advice. A father is willing to assist when asked. A father oversees the growth of children willing to be a source of mature wisdom.

Such a wise father is never controlling or interfering. He knows that freedom must be respected and that children as they grow need space to find their way. But he is always there, always available, accessible when he is needed.

Jesus called God his Father. This was so foundational to his own life that he wanted each of us to also embrace God as our father. In knowing  what true fatherhood is, he wanted all fatherhood on earth to be modelled on its one perfect expression.

May all fathers here today know the dignity that is yours. Know that you are to be fathers as God is Father. And may the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and perfect in you the nature of true fatherhood.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, September 3, 2016