Friday, March 18, 2016


It's a week from Good Friday, and I've been reflecting a lot lately on Jesus' sense of God as his Father. In part, this was sparked by seeing the movie The Young Messiah: the little boy Jesus has an intuitive sense of God as Father, even before Mary tells him about the Annunciation and reveals to him that God truly is his Father. Obviously, a major part of Jesus' mission was proclaiming God's trustworthy nearness and providence; his fatherhood. And Jesus himself had striking experiences of God affirming him as "my beloved Son."

Detail from El Greco, Christ Crucified
For St Paul, too, God's fatherhood was absolutely fundamental to the Gospel. Paul thought of the Holy Spirit as the one who prays in us with the same filial word Jesus used in his prayer, "Abba, Father!" (see Gal 4:6). Paul pointed to this same concept when writing about Baptism in his theological treatise letter to the Romans: "You have not received a spirit of slavery leading back into fear; you have received the spirit of adoption, by which we cry out 'Abba! Father!'" (Rom 8: 15).

Rewind now to Good Friday. Jesus spent an anguished hour or more the night before in Gethsemane, praying "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me; yet not what I will, but what you will" (see Mk 14:36, Mt 26:39, Lk 22:42 and even Jn 18:11). Now Jesus is nailed to a cross, and suddenly the source of his existence seems to go extinct. Jesus is caught between two impossibilities: that the Father should not be, and that he, Jesus, somehow exists without the Father. He had been ready to face the void of sin; he was steeled to do battle with evil. But this total eclipse? A choking gasp of horror stifles him.

And here I wonder if Jesus found even more motivation to give us life for us poor, "fatherless" creatures. He experienced the desperation of our situation; our need for the Gospel. His love for the Father and for us meant that he would do anything so that his Father could be our Father. And from this, the joy and victory in his voice on Easter morning when he would be able to say to Mary Magdalen and to "my brothers": "I am ascending to my Father and your Father; to my God and your God!" (Jn 20:17).

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