In honor of Father’s Day, coming up on Sunday, I’m watching and sharing a video by Scott Hahn, Understanding the Our Father, from the Coming Home Network’s conference series, Deep in History, based on his book by the same name. (I’ve had this book in my Verbum library for at least a couple of years and I’ve only just now begun to read it. I don’t know how long it was there before I realized it. Correction: I did start reading this a while back but life intervened and I didn’t finish it. Story of my life.) Video below, links at the end of this post.

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Understanding the Our FatherIn honor of fathers everywhere I’d like to offer something beautiful and profound to you. So I’m going to post something from Scott Hahn’s book, Understanding the Our Father. [1] It’s more beautiful and profound than anything I can write and I really want to share it with you. Happy Father’s Day! May your day be richly blessed, and the rest of your days also! :)

The “Our” of Power

This is why Tradition tells us we must go beyond our earthly experiences and memories of fatherhood when we pray, “Our Father.” For though He is a provider, begetter, and protector, God is more unlike than like any human father, patriarch, or paternal figure. The Catechism puts it this way: “God our Father transcends the categories of the created world. To impose our own ideas in this area ‘upon him’ would be to fabricate idols to adore or pull down. To pray to the Father is to enter into his mystery as he is and as the Son has revealed him to us” (no. 2779).

How has Jesus, God the Son, revealed the Father to us? As “[o]ur Father who art in heaven” (Mt. 6:9). By adding that prepositional phrase “in heaven,” Jesus emphasizes the difference in God’s fatherhood. The Father to Whom we pray is not an earthly father. He is “above” us; He is the One we profess in the creed as “Father Almighty”—that is, all powerful. Though we are weak, limited, and prone to mistakes, nothing is impossible for God (cf. Lk. 1:37).

God’s power, then, sets His fatherhood apart from any fatherhood we have known or imagined. His “fatherhood and power shed light on one another” (Catechism, no. 270). Unlike earthly fathers, He always has the best intentions for His children, and He always has the ability to carry them out. Jesus wanted us to know this, so that we could always approach our heavenly Father with childlike trust and confidence: “[W]hatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Mt. 21:22).

The Catechism teaches that “God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs” (no. 270). We know God as Father because, over a lifetime of prayer, we experience His care for us. We come to see for ourselves that He is mighty, and that He will deny us nothing that is good for us. [2]

From Heir to Paternity

Earthly fatherhood sometimes reflects these characteristics, as do those offices that assume fatherly roles in society: the priesthood, for example, and the government. Yet earthly fathers can perfect their fatherhood only by purifying themselves of earthly motives—such as greed, envy, pride, and the desire to control. They can become true fathers only by conforming themselves to the image of their heavenly Father, and that Image is His firstborn Son, Jesus Christ.

In governing, in parenting, or in priesthood, we come to exercise a more perfect fatherly role as we “grow up” in the Family of God: “[W]e are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16–17). This process is a divine corrective to the world’s distorted notions of patriarchy and hierarchy.

An ancient Christian writer, Dionysius the Areopagite, described hierarchy as something that originates in heaven, where divine light passes through the angels and the saints as if all were transparent.2 God’s gifts, then, are passed from one person to the next, undiluted. Those who are closest to God—and so higher in the hierarchy—serve those who are lower. At each stage, they give as God gives, keeping nothing to themselves.

Notice, here, how spiritual goods differ from material goods. If I have sole ownership of something—say, a sport coat or a tie—someone else can’t own it and use it at the same time. The higher goods, however, are spiritual; and spiritual goods—such as faith, hope, love, liturgy, the merits of the saints—can be shared and owned completely by all. That’s how the hierarchy works with the angels and saints in heaven.

For this sharing to take place “on earth as it is in heaven” requires the perfection of earthly fatherhood, which can take place only if we earnestly pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” God is the primordial Father, “of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15, Douay Rheims Version). He is the eternal model by which all human fathers must be measured. [3]

A Father Who Keeps His PromisesNotes

[1] Get a copy of Understanding the Our Father at Amazon (Kindle or print) or for Verbum. Also excellent is Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises. Get it at Amazon (Kindle or print) or for Verbum. (I’ll add the Verbum links later, their site is down right now. Oy.)
[2] Hahn, S. (2002). Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, pp. 14–15. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing.
[3] Ibid., pp. 15–16.

Seek First the Kingdom, by Donald Cardinal Wuerl(I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m writing a series of posts as I read a truly important book that was released at the end of 2011, not long before the infamous HHS Mandate was announced. The following is the first installment in the series. All excerpts are taken from Seek First the Kingdom: Challenging the Culture by Living Our Faith, by Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Our Sunday Visitor, 2011, Kindle Edition. Get the book from Amazon. Preview or buy the Kindle version.)

Most Christians have prayed the Lord’s Prayer. As a young Methodist my parents helped me memorize it and we prayed it every Sunday as part of our worship service. As a New Ager I used a form of it in a daily meditation (don’t laugh, or do laugh, but know that I was earnestly searching for truth even if I had no idea how or where to find it). Later as a Buddhist I opened each and every meditation session with the words “Our Father” because I never could accept the atheism of Buddhism. I suppose over the years I gave some thought to this idea of praying to “Our Father”. But I gave almost no thought at all to what it meant to pray that His kingdom would come, even though I said those words, too, every time I said the rest of the prayer. I didn’t even know what the kingdom was.

So what is the kingdom? Is it a metaphor and nothing more? I will allow the Cardinal to speak to that himself:

In the course of this book we will consider the kingdom in some detail. We’ll look at Jesus’ sayings, the apostles’ doctrine, and the tradition of the Church. What we’ll see is that Jesus was not simply speaking symbolically when he announced the kingdom. This was not just a preferred metaphor. He was urgent and specific about what the kingdom was and what it wasn’t, who was in it and who was outside it, and about how one could get in it and stay in it. His kingdom had distinguishing characteristics.

If he had been speaking metaphorically, it would have been an ill-chosen metaphor, since it brought suspicion and persecution upon him, his apostles, and many followers down through the ages. The Romans did not fear a metaphor. Nor did the Persians. Nor have any of their successors in the business of the persecution of Christians. These earthly powers killed Christians because they knew the Christians were serious about a certain king and his kingdom, and they considered that kingdom a threat to their own. God’s kingdom was serious business.

Yes, serious. Then and now. I can’t tell you how serious I have gotten about my faith since I first heard about the HHS Mandate and the ramping up of attacks on religious freedom here in the U.S. This past Friday I bought myself an early Easter gift to celebrate my 16th anniversary of being received into Holy Mother Church: a brand new beautiful Daily Roman Missal, first one I have ever had. With that purchase I also made a commitment to attend Daily Mass. It’s part of my preparation for what I see coming, part of my putting on the whole armor of God, diving deeper into discipleship, getting ready to do my part for the kingdom. For my King. To do that I need, among other things, to understand more fully what the kingdom is, because, as Cardinal Wuerl writes:

[I]n our own day the kingdom is often misunderstood and misconstrued, even by Christians. Some do try to dismiss it as a metaphor — a symbol of what the world would be like if more people would be nice to one another. People should be nice to one another; but the kingdom of God is not reducible to niceness. Others bring it up when they want to suggest that Christians are secretly disloyal to the current regime — that the Christian “kingdom” is somehow a code word for theocracy.

In every election year, it seems, we find the kingdom suffering violence and taken away, far away, from its original intention. Political parties and candidates like to claim, or strongly suggest, that their agenda is the valid way to apply the Gospel in the world. When they do, secularists will then step forth to argue that religious people have no right whatsoever to “impose” their beliefs by speaking up in public.

We should be prepared for this; and as Christians we should be prepared to give an answer to both errors, to make the necessary distinctions, and to call people to account for their use and misuse of the kingdom of God.

I often deal with personal attacks on the Church and myself from people I interact with online and in person, and get a fair share of honest (if misinformed and confused) questions and (sometimes) accusations from friends and family. These confrontations are happening with more and more frequency. All the more reason to learn more about my faith, to practice my faith, to live my faith, at a deeper level than ever before. This is why I’m studying the faith, as, indeed, I was before, but with renewed fervor. Why I’m returning to my earlier practice of attending Daily Mass. Why I’m reading this book. And why I’m sharing it with you.

I hope you’ll join me as I seek to learn more about the kingdom and about our role in that kingdom. And I hope you’ll pick up a copy of your own and share it with your family and friends. We need all Christians and all people of good will to stand up and speak out now, to do what is right. To do that, we need to know what is right. First things first. I’ll share what I learn with you here on the blog, both as I continue to read Cardinal Wuerl’s book and as I continue to grow in discipleship.

Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you. Peace be with you, now and always.