The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
What do you call your father?
Dad? Pops? Papa? Father?
There are several special references to God the Father this week, besides the usual references in prayers of the Mass as in the Gloria (“O God, almighty Father”) and the Creed (“I believe in God the Father Almighty”).
In the Gospel reading from Luke, we hear Jesus teach the Lord’s Prayer, with its first words: “Our Father.”
And the first reading speaks of God talking to Abraham about going to Sodom and Gomorrah. God says, “I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.” Doesn’t that just sound like something Dad used to say when we got a little carried away with playtime? “Don’t make me come down there and see what you’re doing.”
We are all familiar with the fact that, from Jesus’ time to this day, the Hebrew word for “father” is “abba.” (Mother is “imma.”) “Abba” is a familiar form of “father,” translating as “my father,” as opposed to just a generic “father.”
Pope Francis, in an April 10, 2013, general audience reminded us that “the Spirit himself whom we received in baptism who teaches us, spurs us to say to God: ‘Father’ or, rather, ‘Abba!,’ which means ‘papa’ or (‘dad’). Our God is like this: He is a dad to us.”
When you say the word “father” at Mass, what does it mean to you? Take some time to think about that as you listen to the readings, say the prayers and sing the songs this weekend. What is the God, who is your father, really mean to you?
Jesus’ lesson went well beyond the Our Father. He also spoke of persistence, of repeatedly asking for what we need and trusting that — like the good neighbor in the story — God will always get up and give us what we need.
Children are persistent — at Mass today you will probably see some child pestering their father for something: “Please, Dad.” “Come on, Dad, hurry up.” “Dad, pick me up.” “I have to go, Dad!”
Just remember that because Jesus, God’s son, told us to call his father our own father, God is ready to be — as Pope Francis said — “Dad to us.”
Think about what that means to you. And then, go to God — your father — in prayer.
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of multiple books.