Image: The Holy Trinity, Francisco Caro [public domain]
In the Old Testament, God’s people Israel knew of God as father, but only in a general sense. For instance, since God is creator of all things, he can be called “father.” Jesus Christ, however, reveals an entirely distinct fatherhood of God: he reveals, as St. Paul writes, “Abba” (see Romans 8:15), abba being a Syriac word that signifies “my father.” It’s a word relating familial imagery, a word of intimacy. In other words, God is not just father in the abstract sense as creator, but in a familial, intimate manner with his creation.
Furthermore, this Abba is also not just calling upon God as father in a familial, intimate manner, but calling upon the Person of God the Father, First Person of the Most Holy Trinity. For in Christ, we not only get to call God Abba, but receive the revelation of the paternity of God the Father within the Triune God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity being eternally begotten of the Father. We read in John 1:18, for example, that “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” Or as we read in Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
How, then, does Jesus reveal the Person of God the Father? Let us look at 10 ways (among others!) that the revelation of Jesus draws us into the mystery of his filial relationship with God the Father. In this post we’ll cover five ways, while next week we’ll round things out.
- The Incarnation (John 1:1-14) – the Incarnation is the external prolongation and extension of the procession of the Son. As we read in John 8:42, “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.’” This is why St. Paul can write in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.” The justice and mercy of the invisible Father, his love and providential care of his beloved creatures, has a face in Christ because of the Incarnation.
- The finding of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51) – as Jesus says to Mary and Joseph upon their reunion, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” A Father different, of course, from St. Joseph himself, who is but the foster-father of our Lord.
- His preaching (Matthew 5-7) – we read in Mark 1:14 that “after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God.” This preaching is most famously captured by the Sermon on the Mount, which emphasizes the fatherhood of God. In fact, God is called “father” in the sermon 17 times. Why emphasize God’s fatherhood in the sermon? Because Jesus is God the Son, who is calling us to be sons of God ourselves, through him and with him and in him.
- His works (John 5) – not only do the words of Jesus testify to God the Father, but so, too, do his works. The healings, miracles, and all other acts of Jesus show forth his splendor as the Son of God. As our Lord himself says, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
- His interior life (Luke 3:21-22; 9:28-36) – we see in Christ’s interior life that his life of prayer is all about his turning as Son to the Father and the Father turning likewise in testifying to his Son. In both cases of the Baptism and Transfiguration, for example, Jesus Christ is praying, and as he is doing so a voice from heaven proclaims him the beloved Son. By uniting ourselves to the interior life of Christ, we pierce the heavenly mysteries.