For the past week, and up until just a couple days before Pentecost, the Gospel readings for daily Mass are from John’s recounting of the Last Supper. Here Jesus repeatedly speaks about, and prays to, “the Father.” I want to step back and reflect on that for a minute.
God is completely and utterly beyond us. Take a second and try to imagine something, anything, that isn’t bound by space, time, and matter. We can’t do it. God created these things that bind even our wildest imaginations. Time is a creature of God like a giraffe is a creature of God. This is what we mean when we talk of God’s transcendence.
God is that far beyond us that the only way we could possibly know anything about him is if he reveals himself to us. The main sources for this self-revelation of God are Scripture, Tradition, and, especially, Jesus himself. And the primary image that God chooses to reveal himself is as Father. The God who willed the universe into existence wants us to see him as Father, and not just a Father, but our Father.
If God’s primary identity is our Father, then our primary identity is as God’s child. This revelation changes everything. We aren’t cosmic accidents caused by some indifferent process of evolution. Neither are we slaves of a Divine Master. No, we are sons and daughters of the Father.
Take a second again and imagine the perfect earthly father. He may look like your own father or he may look entirely different. The most loving, strong, and merciful human father is nothing but a pale shadow of the Father. We cannot possibly be better parents than God.
In his recent letter to young people, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis places this revelation of God at the center of our faith. He says:
“The very first truth I would tell each of you is this: ‘God loves you’. It makes no difference whether you have already heard it or not. I want to remind you of it. God loves you. Never doubt this, whatever may happen to you in life. At every moment, you are infinitely loved. Perhaps your experience of fatherhood has not been the best. Your earthly father may have been distant or absent, or harsh and domineering. Or maybe he was just not the father you needed. I don’t know. But what I can tell you, with absolute certainty, is that you can find security in the embrace of your heavenly Father” (CV 112-113).
Scripture so strongly reveals God’s caring and compassionate love for his children that it even at times uses maternal language for God. The prophet Isaiah says, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is 49:15). Pope John Paul I, in one of his few addresses, reflects on this saying:
“We are the objects of undying love on the part of God. We know: he has always his eyes open on us, even when it seems to be dark. He is our father; even more, he is our mother. He does not want to hurt us, He wants only to do good to us, to all of us. If children are ill, they have an additional claim to be loved by their mother. And we too, if by chance we are sick with badness, on the wrong track, have yet another claim to be loved by the Lord.”
During this Easter season, I invite you to reflect on God’s love for you. Listen in the gospels how the Father relates to Jesus and know that God relates to you in the same way. If you feel distant from God because of your sin and mistakes then read the parable of the Prodigal Son. Sit in quiet prayer and ask the Father to show you how much he loves you. Let God’s revelation renew your mind and transform all the false images you have of God or yourself. Rejoice in your identity as a child of the Father. Let the words of Pope Francis rest deep in your heart:
“The Lord’s love is greater than all our problems, frailties and flaws. Yet it is precisely through our problems, frailties and flaws that he wants to write this love story. He embraced the prodigal son, he embraced Peter after his denials, and he always, always, always embraces us after every fall, helping us to rise and get back on our feet. Because the worst fall, and pay attention to this, the worst fall, the one that can ruin our lives, is when we stay down and do not allow ourselves to be helped up” (CV 120).