JUNE 21, 2012 -- Feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: Matthew 6:7-15

OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN. What a bold way of addressing the great Creator of the universe, the eternal almighty God!.  And yet, already in ancient times, the people God had chosen as his own had begun to consider the great, transcendent Creator of the universe as a Father. For God himself had initiated them in this way of thinking. Had he not appeared to his prophet Nathan in the days of David, King of Israel and ordered him to give a message from the One whose Providence rules over all? In the course of that revelation, God speaking of Solomon, David’s son says: “I will become a Father to him, and he will be a son to me.” (2K  7:14) Having received such assurance from God Himself, certain men of deep piety did not hesitate to address the Creator as a Father. Psalm 68.5 speaks of Him as “Father of orphans and defender of widows” Close to the time of Jesus’ teaching his disciples, the author of the Book of Wisdom refers to Adam as “Father of the Cosmos”, a title that implies that God has such power over all that he can create one to whom he bestows a share in his own rule over creation. In this way, the inspired writer gives a personal coloring to the relation between the whole of creation and its Creator.

In doing so the inspired writer provides a fresh perspective on the Cosmos, indicating that it is not merely governed by impersonal laws of nature but is under the sway of a caring, even a loving Person. Once adopted and through prayerful reflection assimilated, such an understanding of the created universe advances a vitally fresh significance to all of life. We are not controlled, ultimately, by blind forces of nature; rather the whole of the Universe is subject to the care and guidance of a powerful, all-knowing Father of all that exists. Thus this insight into the functioning of all that exists as being subject to a Person best referred to as a Father becomes a source of new meaning that gives rise to hope. For if this world of ours is not merely a mechanism operating under impersonal forces that are without  purpose beyond their own operations and their inevitable results, as many of the wise of this world hold today, then death has the final word for our human condition.

Having become man of Mary, and being formed in the cultural world of her Jewish faith, Jesus inherited from the earliest days of his life this faith articulated by the prophets as well as by the unknown wisdom teacher who was the author of this phrase “father of the cosmos.”  About 800 years earlier, he Prophet Isaiah had foretold the coming of a future savior to whom he gave a number of imposing titles, one of the most impressive being “Father of eternity” The Catholic Church fathers recognized that this prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Christ who, even during his limited time as man on earth remained in his person the eternal Word of God ever living in harmonious union with the Father. Hardly is it surprising then that in response to the request to teach his disciples how to pray he instructs us to make our first words “Our Father” In bestowing on us the right to address the eternal God as our father, Jesus associates us so intimately with himself that we share in some measure his own dignity as son. He is keenly aware, of course, of the distance that separates our sonship from his as he indicates elsewhere. When he foretells his coming return to his place in heaven he avoids saying “I am going to our Father”; rather he tells his disciples that he is to ascend “to my Father and your Father.”

In a short while, shortly before we receive the body and blood of the risen Christ at this altar, we will all say together this prayer, given us by our Lord, in which we confidently address the eternal God and Father of all as “our /father”. May we grasp in ever fuller measure something of the vast significance of our privilege so to approach God, united with his only begotten Son as to be in truth empowered to call him with gratitude of heart, Abba, Father.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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