The scene at Calvary when Jesus spoke from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46) serves as a little catechism on entrusting ourselves to the Father’s loving care. “Genuine spirituality begins when we are prepared to die. Could there be a quicker way to die than to let God form our lives from moment to moment and continually consent to His action?” writes, Fr. Wilfred Stinissen in his book “Into Your Hands Father”.
The Father’s Perfect Love
When we pray the Creed we say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.” The challenge arises –do we truly believe that our Heavenly Father is almighty enough to oversee all things visible and invisible—even my daily life? Am I truly a child of The Father?
For me, one of the greatest consolations of Catholicism is the truth of the Most Holy Trinity. The interior life becomes an adventure of communion with Three Persons in One. Who I am before God the Father is child—loved and loveable in the eyes of God. The Father reveals our identity and dignity.
Sometimes we look for our identity to be defined by human love that does not mirror the heart of God. Imperfect human love can breed insecurity that is common to humanity. In his book, “The Original Wound”, Fr. Benedict Groeschel wrote, “Having heard the confessions of homeless people on the streets of New York as well as high ranking Prelates in the Church, I never met a person who didn’t have some insecurity.” Heaven’s provision for human insecurity is the love of the Father.
When Jesus takes us into deeper relationship with His Abba, there is an experience of divine love that is quite distinguishable from all human love. The Heavenly Father is the perfect necessary love that creates, defines, upholds, heals, and dignifies us.
The Father’s Perfect Will
The Father’s divine will is a mystery not to be solved but to be lived. The Father desires us to discover His will for our life. By grace He reveals His will. He has a plan, a unique mission for each person and He reveals it to us in many ways. Today, He competes with our many distractions: our stubborn will, worldly thinking, fleshy desires, and diabolical tensions. Even when we come to the knowledge of His will, we may procrastinate, second-guess the plan, or flatly refuse to go the direction He asks of us.
There is a chalice that the Father asks us to drink. Since much of the bitter chalice comes from other people in our lives, we may have difficulty recognizing that the chalice is actually from Him. He is the Father who did not spare His beloved Son Jesus from the bitter cup. We may ask, “Why does God the Father allow so much suffering and evil? Why doesn’t He intervene?” When we see how the Father loves His Son Jesus, we learn that agape love requires sacrifice. The Father sacrificed His only begotten Son Jesus for love of us. God tested Abraham: would he sacrifice his son Isaac? Love tested by suffering, or even the sacrifice of complete ruin, does not indicate a lack of love on the part of the Father.
Fr. Stinissen explains, “…Saint Paul assures us that even the greatest catastrophe, namely sin, contributes to the revelation of love. Nothing falls outside of God’s plan. That is why the tragedy of the world, despite all its terror, has no definitive character. All the absurdity of which mankind’s foolishness and blindness are capable is caught up in God’s loving omnipotence. He is able to fit even the absurd into His plan of salvation and thereby give it meaning.”
Our heavenly Father is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He loves us perfectly when He offers us the chalice (blessing cup) or the cross (bridge) as means of sanctification. We need not understand only believe and trust that we are in His hands, written upon His heart, alive in His will. Nothing can separate us from His love (cf. Romans 8:38).
Reflecting Abba’s Heart: Five Things on Spiritual Fatherhood
- God the Father is the almighty spiritual father of all humanity, and the principle and source of fatherhood. God “fathers” us all; there are no spiritual orphans. The most compelling sign of the greatness of God the Father’s infinite love for us is the most precious gift of His Son Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus taught us to call God “our Father” and he gave us the Lord’s Prayer, “the most perfect of prayers” (St Thomas Aquinas).
- The Pope is the Holy Father because God entrusts the keys of the Church to every successor of St. Peter, making him the spiritual shepherd of the People of God. The Church is a spiritual mother of souls and the members are her children. Likewise, the Holy Father is the spiritual father of all those members. The bishops, in union with the Pope, are sacramentally ordained to be additional spiritual fathers who perpetuate the love, life and work of the first apostles ordained by Christ. The Holy Father is also called to be a spiritual father to the bishops, who in turn are called to be spiritual fathers to their priests and to all souls under their care. In this way, the love of the Trinity permeates down through the Church to birth generations of spiritual children.
- The priest is “another Christ,” a bridegroom of the Church and demonstrates his spiritual fatherhood through his service to the people of God as spiritual head and shepherd. The ordained priesthood is the only vocation by which man is sacramentally marked with an indelible sign that enables him to participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, Eternal High Priest. The priest is anointed and empowered to be a real spiritual father in nourishing and forming spiritual children, who are called to become saints. The priest begets spiritual children in the way that Jesus did–by evangelizing the faithful (preaching and teaching), by offering sacrifices on their behalf (the Holy Mass), and by laying down his life (dying to self in the service of others) so that his spiritual children may return safely to the Father’s house.
- The spiritual fatherhood of a Christian layman derives from his baptismal identity with Jesus Christ. In the vocation of a layman, baptismal gifts develop in a way that is reflected in his spiritual fatherhood. At baptism, the layman is plunged into the life and love of the Trinity, and enters the common priesthood of the faithful. He is anointed for the duty to sanctify (help in the formation of holiness), like Jesus did as Priest. He is anointed for the duty to teach (spiritual formation), like Jesus did as Prophet. And he is anointed for the duty to shepherd, like Jesus did as King. His primary responsibility lies with (but is not limited to) his family.
- St. Joseph is the icon of spiritual fatherhood of laymen. St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood models for all laymen the rediscovery of the masculine ideal. God the Father entrusted the life of His Son Jesus to an ordinary layman. St. Joseph was not spared from original sin, and he humbly accepted the authority the Eternal Father gave him to be head of the Holy Family. Jesus counted on St. Joseph for fatherly love, protection, and human formation, especially during his years in Nazareth. St. Joseph models for all men the ideal of the masculine vocation–to protect the precious gift of life and to beget more life, physically and spiritually.
And just as St. Joseph was a father to Jesus, laymen can be spiritual fathers to priests by generously supporting in various ways, those who are called to the priesthood. In a culture that is losing its sense of authentic masculinity and fatherhood, this facet of spiritual fatherhood is needed more now than ever.
Prayer: Into Your Hands Father
Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; do with me what You will. For whatever You may do I thank You. I am ready for all. I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me as in all Your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul. I offer it to You with all the love of my heart. For I love You, my God, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for You are my Father
—Brother Charles of Jesus (1858-1916).