FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
One should be extremely glad that because of faith in Jesus Christ (s)he has earned the right to be called a child of God. This right is reserved to only Christians. The second reading tells us that the Church not only gives believers and the baptized a glimpse into God from the outside, but that she even lets us enter into his inner life as love.
Do you know that among the major religions in the world it is only Christians who are blessed with the privilege to address God as “Abba, Father”? A senior priest once recounted an incident to me. He said one early morning, he heard the morning call from a Muslim Muezzin, who was crying out his early morning call to prayer. And the Muslim said, “God has no children, because God has no wife.” And to him, it is no surprising that, that particular religion hardly refers to God as “Father”. Islam tends to refer to its adherents as “slaves” of God.
The same can be said of most religions around the world other than Christianity. For instance, Judaism, the forerunner of Christianity, again hardly ever calls God “Father”. The Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) does indeed on occasions use the term “son” or “child” to refer variously to the angels, the nation of Israel, and the kings of Israel. But the usage is rare and the application restricted; it does not extend to each and every Israelite. By contrast, the “Fatherhood” of God is prominent in the teaching of Jesus Christ. First, he reveals that God is his own Father by nature; that is, he is the natural Son of God, thereby having the same nature as the Father, and being God himself. Only he is the natural Son of God. That is why the Creed, calls him “the Only-begotten Son of God, born of the Father before time began.” That revelation is the basis of our faith in the Blessed Trinity, whose Solemnity we celebrate today.
But Jesus goes on to say that God is also the Father of his disciples, and they are his children. He does that on many occasions. Prominent among them is when he teaches them how to pray. He says, “Pray then in this way, ‘Our Father in heaven…”’ (cf. Matthew 6:9). He could well have said, “Our Lord…”, or “Our King…” or “Our Provider…”, or whatever title you may think of. But he preferred to say, “Our Father…” Obviously, his disciples are not natural children of God. They are children only by adoption. But they are still God’s children in a very real sense, much the same way that adopted children have the same legal right as biological children in the human society.
St. Paul tells us in our second reading today that the reason the disciples are God’s children is that they have God’s Spirit in them. The Spirit that they have received is “the spirit of sons”, and it makes them cry out, “Abba Father!” It is not “the spirit of slaves bringing fear into [their] lives.” That is true of his disciples down through the ages. It is true of us who are Jesus’ disciples today. God is our Father, we are his children by reason of his Spirit that has been given to us. The moment when that Spirit began to be with us and in us was at our baptism. Whenever we were baptized – either as infants, children, adolescents or mature adults – the Spirit of God was “poured into our hearts”, and “given to us to drink”, and we became God’s children. What a privilege! To be God’s own children! St John was moved to write, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).
A lot of people would be extremely proud to be able to call themselves children of a king or queen or even a president or head of state. How much more should we be proud to be able to call God our Father? Many years ago when my late Dad became a traditional ruler (in other parlance: a traditional “king”), we found out that others who Dads occupied similar positions were known in school as “Nanaba” (the king’s son) but to our surprise my mum would not allow us to be called by that name and we had no servants in our house to serve us. My “Good Mum” just wanted us to be called “children of God”; to her that was more than enough. In those years I was angry with my mum but today I am proud to be called Reverend Father, a child of God and I thank God for the education and orientation from my mum, never to be allowed to use the title “Nanaba” (King’s son).
Over the years I have realized that being children of God brings a certain responsibility with it; namely, that we live up to our status as God’s children. We cannot be God’s children and proceed to live like children of slaves. Because we are God’s children, we must endeavour to resemble him in every way that is humanly possible. Jesus said as much when he told his audience. “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).